Rich Ploch to stay unopposed for La Salle County coroner

Democrat running for auditor stays on ballot, panel rules

Dr. Larry Powell (left) was removed from the Nov. 5 ballot for coroner Monday, June 17, 2024. Powell, seen here with La Salle County GOP chairman Larry Smith, filed invalid petitions, a three-member panel ruled.

La Salle County Coroner Rich Ploch remains unopposed on the Nov. 5 ballot while Republican Auditor Stephanie Jo Thompson will have a Democratic challenger.

On Monday, a three-member panel granted Ploch’s bid to remove his Republican challenger, Dr. Larry Powell, from the general election. Thompson, however, was unsuccessful in her bid with the panel to remove Democrat Ashley Franciskovich of Ottawa.

You have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to stay on the ballot”

—  Tom McClintock, attorney for La Salle County Coroner Rich Ploch

Powell and Franciskovich did not appear on the March primary ballot. Each person was slated by their parties for coroner and auditor, prompting the incumbents to file objections.

The decisions came before a three-member review panel comprised of La Salle County State’s Attorney Joe Navarro, County Clerk Jennifer Ebner and Circuit Clerk Greg Vaccaro. In unanimous rulings after closed-door deliberations, the panel upheld Ploch’s challenge but denied Thompson’s.

Powell’s ruling isn’t final; he can appeal in court. Powell declined comment when asked whether he would appeal.

Ploch’s lawyer, La Salle attorney Tom McClintock, said Powell missed a key deadline and circulated numerous petitions outside the time frame spelled out by the Election Code – circulated petitions before the GOP even selected him.

“You have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to stay on the ballot,” McClintock said.

In speaking on behalf of Powell, La Salle County Republican Central Committee Chairman Larry Smith disputed the timeline in McClintock’s filing. Smith acknowledged a stray error in the 50-page document but said that courts have upheld filings containing clerical errors.

Smith also expressed indignation that Ploch, in his pleading, relied on “proprietary” GOP documents he shouldn’t have had access to, let alone made public.

Thompson’s objection was more simple. Franciskovich, she said, completed a form for the primary election rather than for the general election.

Franciskovich let a fellow Democrat address the panel. Ottawa attorney Tom Ganiere said the primary and general forms were “virtually identical” and that using the incorrect form comprised “substantial compliance,” the standard used when weighing the validity of a filing.

“I’m just happy to run,” Franciskovich said.

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