CHICAGO – All eight members of the State Electoral Board denied an objection that would have guaranteed the nomination of St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly as Democratic candidate for Congress.
On Jan. 11, the board ruled that Kelly opponent David Bequette of Columbia could run against Kelly in the 12th District primary on March 20.
Lynda Lee Sparks-Franklin of Percy objected to Bequette’s nominating petitions on Dec. 11, alleging a pattern of fraud and false swearing.
Her lawyer, Belleville city attorney Brian Flynn, called for a finding that Bequette’s petitions were illegal and void in their entirety.
Flynn’s client has identified herself by four names at the election board.
Last May, as Lynda Lee Sparks-Franklin, she created a campaign committee under the name of the Good Works Project.
A statement of organization identified the treasurer as Barbara Brumfield.
According to Linked In, Brumfield works for Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Asbestos lawyers gave the Good Works Project $10,000, half from Randy Gori of Edwardsville and half from the Maune Raichle firm in St. Louis.
As of Sept. 30, the committee had spent less than $3,000.
L. Lee Franklin, at the same address in Percy, created Southern Illinois Democrat Women as a campaign committee last July.
As of Sept. 30, it hadn’t raised or spent any money.
A statement of organization gave an email address for Lee Sparks.
Last March, as Lee Franklin, she identified herself as contact person for a Democrat party event in Marion.
Bequette, needing 816 signatures, had filed 1,192.
In the objection, Flynn alleged “a pervasive and systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.”
He challenged 488 signatures, including 275 on sheets that Bobby Washington of East St. Louis circulated.
Flynn wrote that Washington certified under oath that he resided at 1328 N. 44th St., when he in fact resided at 562 N. 24th St.
He claimed the petitions contained names of persons not qualified or registered to vote in the district, persons who did not sign them in their own proper persons, and persons who signed more than once.
He classified other signatures as improper, partial, incomplete, or no address. He also wrote that several were written by the same hand and were forgeries.
Finally, he challenged 32 signatures on five sheets that identified the office as Representative in Congress without specifying the 12th District.
For Bequette, William McGrath of Marshall argued that the petitions substantially complied with Illinois election law.
He wrote that Washington resided at 1328 N. 44th St., as he certified.
Electoral Board staff examined the petitions on Dec. 26, and whittled Bequette’s signatures down to 803.
McGrath objected for Bequette, claiming staff opened terminals in addition to two that were originally unavailable.
McGrath wrote that Bequette, with only two people to monitor the examination, was unable to have a witness for about half the pages.
He alleged irregularities by a staff person.
The board granted re-examination, which yielded 823 valid signatures.
Flynn responded that he requested records from the East St. Louis election board and would bring them to a hearing on Jan. 4.
At the hearing, Flynn called Washington and circulator Ashley Scott as witnesses to establish their fraud and false swearing.
They wound up winning the day for Bequette instead.
Hearing officer David Herman wrote, “Neither of these witnesses provided evidence to support the pattern of fraud and false swearing allegations.
“Objector failed to present evidence on this issue and therefore, this objection fails.”
He found no evidence that failure to specify the 12th District confused any voter.
“The voters of the 12th Congressional District may only vote for a representative in their own district,” he wrote.
“Indeed, it is unreasonable to think a voter would believe that a potential candidate for Congress would seek petition signatures from voters registered outside the Congressional district in which they are running.”
Though Sparks-Franklin failed to displace Bequette from the 12th District race, she successfully displaced candidate Charles Koen.
Her objection identified so many invalid signatures that Koen tried to withdraw by electronic mail on the morning of his hearing in Chicago.
Because he didn’t withdraw formally, the board heard and sustained the objection.