CHICAGO - Downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) on Friday abandoned plans to try and knock Mayor Lori Lightfoot off the ballot — even after uncovering what he said was a "pattern of fraud" that suggested she may not have the 12,500 valid signatures required by law.
After a "cursory review" of all of the roughly 40,000 signatures that Lightfoot filed on Monday and getting "well into a secondary" review to see if those signatures match the signatures of those voters on file, Hopkins said he "got it down to about 17,500 signatures" when he "ran out of time."
"Had we had a couple more weeks, there is a clear pattern of fraud. We might have been able to get her under 12,500. But, the only way to do that is an individual line-by-line signature comparison. And then, to have voters step forward, sign affidavits and say, `That’s not my signature.’ We just don’t have time to do that. So, we’re not gonna file a challenge," Hopkins said Friday.
Hopkins described the "pattern of fraud" in Lightfoot’s nominating petitions as "classic round-tabling" made famous in Chicago.
"You get four to five people sitting at a table passing clipboards around so that fraudulent signatures do not match the one on the line above and below… It’s three or four or, possibly, five lines away, and you have to look for that pattern… It starts to become apparent that it’s the same small group of circulators signing voters names and just guessing what the signatures might look like," Hopkins said.
"For an incumbent mayor to have to resort to deceptive, fraudulent tactics to get on the ballot is a further indictment of her performance in this office. She does not have a strong base of support. She had to resort to all manner of trickery, including having people asked to sign a petition when they didn’t know it was Mayor Lightfoot’s petition they were signing."
The Lightfoot campaign sloughed off Hopkins’ claims about having uncovered a "clear pattern of fraud."
"As we said before, any challenge to these signatures would be merely a nuisance — and it appears that others are realizing that as well," Lightfoot campaign spokesperson Christina Freundlich wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.
"The, `I know I have you beat, but I’m folding’ strategy is laughable. We are 100 percent confident in our signatures and look forward to being on the ballot."
After examining Lightfoot’s petitions, Hopkins said he now knows why the mayor took a pass on entering the lottery for top spot on the Feb. 28 ballot.
"Had she filed on the first day to take a chance that she might be first on the ballot, we would have knocked her off. Period. She needed that extra week," he said.
The challenge period started at 9 a.m. Tuesday and continues through 5 p.m. Monday.
Four years ago, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle challenged the nominating petitions of then-Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and managed to knock Brown of the ballot before her landslide loss to Lightfoot in the runoff. Wilson challenged community activist Ja’Mal Green’s petitions and convinced Green to drop out before the challenge was completed.
Veteran political operative Victor Reyes, who is advising U.S. Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia’s mayoral campaign, has said he expects the Chicago Teachers Union to be most active during the challenge period in hopes of knocking Garcia and "as many African-American candidates as possible" off the ballot to benefit Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, the CTU’s endorsed and handpicked candidate.