State court says Hebda votes should count

Published: 1/29/2010 12:01 AM | Updated: 1/29/2010 7:24 AM

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday allowed state representative candidate Cynthia Hebda to keep her name on the Republican primary ballot, but at least one election official worries that previous court rulings may unfairly hurt her candidacy.

Hebda initially was challenged by state Democrats who argued that she violated candidacy rules by signing the nominating petition for state Rep. Carol Sente, a personal friend and the Democratic incumbent. The 59th House District includes parts of southern and central Lake County and a small portion of Cook County.

Michael P. Reagan, an attorney for Hebda, said Thursday's decision temporarily renders the lower courts' decisions ineffective, which legally legitimizes Hebda's name on the primary ballots.

"And the effect is she now has a completely viable candidacy, and the voters can consider her among the candidates for the primary on Tuesday," Reagan said.

Hebda said she was extremely pleased with the decision and heralded it as a win for ballot access.

"And now, finally, I'm going to be allowed to let the voters choose who they want to represent them," Hebda said.

"It's been a roller coaster the whole month of January," Hebda added, referring to her initial review by the State Board of Elections, which was followed by appeals to the circuit, appellate and state Supreme Court.

Reagan, her attorney, said he wasn't surprised by Thursday's order, given the legal history of Illinois ballot access.

"I think we have very strong decisions (on our side) and I'm grateful the court did what it did," he said.

An attorney representing Illinois Democrats in the case was not immediately available for comment late Thursday.

The court still might hear Hebda's case later on, which could affect future cases that deal with state elections.

In the meantime, at least one election official worries that Hebda's chances of winning the Republican nomination may have taken a hit because of early and absentee votes cast while lower court rulings suggested votes for Hebda would not be counted. Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said some residents told her they would have supported Hebda but were told they couldn't.

Notices saying Hebda is not a legitimate candidate will be pulled from Lake County polling places today, Helander said. They also will be removed from polling places on Election Day.

The clerk's office will try to count how many people already cast Republican primary ballots in the 59th District to determine how many people could have voted for Hebda but were told it wouldn't count.

If Hebda loses on Election Day, Helander expects her to demand a special election.

"This has been confused from the get go," Helander said.

Dan Sugrue and Mohan Manian, both of Green Oaks, also are competing for the Republican nomination. Sente, the appointed incumbent, faces Elliott Hartstein, the Buffalo Grove Village president, in the Democratic primary.

• Staff writer Russell Lissau contributed to this report.