Cohen announces running mate, needs signatures

May 12, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Without the signatures, Cohen would not qualify to appear on the ballot.

After Scott Lee Cohen introduced 35-year-old Chicagoan Baxter Swilley as his running rate, his effort to collect the signatures of 25,000 registered Illinois voters began. The independent campaign will need its own circulators to get that many signatures by June 21 to get the Cohen-Swilley ticket on the ballot.

"Anyone that has circulated for a party in the primary cannot circulate for an independent in the general," said independent candidate Cohen. "But again, anybody who is a registered voter can sign the petitions."

Independent candidates, including Scott Lee Cohen, look good announcing and organizing their campaigns, but legally, they are not running for anything until they get the required number of valid signatures on petitions.

Lawyers for the incumbent and Democratic Party nominee, Governor Pat Quinn, have indicated that they will challenge the signatures on Cohen's petitions of anyone who voted in the primary.

"I think it's important that if you're a member of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party and you've participated in the primary, that you've actually nominated your candidate," said Quinn.

Election lawyers also are primed to challenge the signatures gathered by circulators for Forrest Claypool, who is running as an independent for Cook County Assessor.

Despite the legal threats, Claypool circulators are approaching all registered voters, including those who cast ballots in the primary before Claypool announced his candidacy.

"He may create a little bit of - raise the hackles - but I think that's part of the job," said Chicago resident Marv Anderson.

"He has a heck of a task ahead, but if he can go ahead and get those signatures and he can accomplish that, then he should get on the ballot," said Chicagoan Delane Adams.

Claypool said he fully expects what he referred to as the Democratic machine to press the effort to keep him off the ballot.

"They're telling voters that there's legal barriers," said Claypool. "It's old-fashioned thug tactics, and we've seen this before, and we're not going to be intimidated."

When they happen, the petition challenges will cost both sides at least tens of thousands of dollars. Those legal costs drain money that independent candidates like Scott Lee Cohen would otherwise spend on their message.

Governor Quinn indicated petition challenges will be part of his strategy agasinst Cohen.

"The bottom line is the election law must be followed," said Quinn. "It's a law - it's important for every candidate, no matter who they are, to comply with the law."

An advantage for Scott Lee Cohen is the fact he has the entire state of Illinois to mine for signatures, as opposed to Claypool who must get his 25,000 only in Cook County.

In the petition game, the conventional wisdom is you should get three times as many as needed. Cohen says he'll try to get 150,000.

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