Chicago likes to ensure that its incumbents have every advantage. Rather than conduct municipal elections in November along with all the other elections that are going on, it holds them the following February. By then the excitement has died and the weather is usually dicey. This year, with the mayor's race no longer including Daley we are poised for more excitement than usual. Will the weather cooperate? But you can't have an election until the petitions are filed and the challenges to same are cleared. We passed the date to file nominating petitions for the 2011 election, and we just hit the deadline for filing challenges to same.
Such is the case with the race for alderman in the 49th Ward. Having survived a runoff in 2007 by 251 (if I recall correctly) votes, Mr. Moore outdid himself this year in sweeping up petition signatures, over 6,000 all told. Since signers can only sign for one candidate, that effectively limits the available signatures for others who might want to run. However, four potential candidates have stepped up; Brian White, Blaine Roberts, Ben Myers, and Roosevelt Akins. That large a field could result in another runoff and I seriously doubt Mr. Moore is interested in traveling down that road again. What to do? First, and easiest option, see if you can get your opponents knocked off the ballot. Petition challenges have been filed, but not against all of the candidates and there lies the rub.
One Jason T. Olsen has filed petition challenges against Roberts, Myers and Akins. White was left alone. Who is Jason T. Olsen and who is he working for? I seriously doubt that he is merely an interested citizen who believes that the three candidates he challenged have flawed petitions. I am told by parties more politically savvy than myself that proxies are usually employed, and usually by the incumbent, to file challenges. It's much easier to win when you don't have a crowded field to contend with. It's also easier to avoid a runoff. Thus a likely scenario is that Olsen has filed on behalf of Moore.
On the other hand, Olsen could be White's proxy. I doubt that is the case, but if proved wrong then of course that would be fodder for Moore who could lay on the snark about White closing off competition.
A Google search on Roosevelt Akins produces a lot of information suggesting the gentleman has a checkered history and is unlikely to make a case for himself as alderman. I don't know if he has done anything in terms of campaigning and I couldn't find a website. Ben Myers has a single page as a campaign site and doesn't offer much to recommend himself. Also, a search of the State of Illinois elections site produces no evidence that either Myers or Akins have filed the requisite form for a candidate committee. From my perspective that suggests neither is a genuine candidate worthy of consideration. Losing them as candidates via the challenge process may not matter much.
Roberts, on the other hand, has a political background and his website offers up his take on the issues of the day. White also has a fairly detailed site covering the issues. Yet White's petitions are not being challenged but Roberts' are. Why? Without knowing the number of signatures obtained by any of the contenders I will offer the following speculation: White's numbers are high enough that a challenge would not produce the desired result - knocking him off the ballot. The rest are all vulnerable to a challenge (although I am willing to bet Roberts survives). But again, the alternative argument is that Olsen is White's proxy, and thus White is left alone, as is Moore with his 6,000+ signatures.
In any case, it appears that the competitive field for the alderman will be shaved down. We may never know for a certainty who Olsen is a proxy for, although it could add to the entertainment value of the campaign. Silly season, Chicago-style, is just beginning.