Judge refuses to reconsider ruling in La Salle County ballot challenge

Attorney for the GOP will ask for expedited appeal

The La Salle County Republicans attempt to reverse the state’s attorney’s race is over, at least at trial court – but an attorney for the GOP says they’ll appeal.

Friday, a Grundy County judge threw out GOP Chairman Larry Smith’s motion to reconsider, effectively ending Smith’s attempt to overturn the prosecutor’s race, won by Democrat Todd Martin against Republican Karen Donnelly.

However, the failed motion to reconsider has “perfected” the GOP’s appeal. That is, the Republicans have exhausted all their trial court options and now can take the case to the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa.

“That’s the plan,” Hotopp confirmed. “We will be asking for (the case) to be expedited.”

Smith and the GOP have 30 days to file an appeal and then the appellate court will make the decision of whether to fast track it. If yes, the GOP could get a ruling by Christmas. If no, Martin could be halfway through his four-year term before the court rules on the vote count.

Smith had disputed the handling of Nov. 3 mail-in ballots and sought to overturn not only the state’s attorney race but also the statehouse seat retained by Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa). The challenge to Yednock’s win later was withdrawn.

Earlier this summer, Belt dismissed the case and awarded sanctions for unsubstantiated allegations made against La Salle County Clerk Lori Bongartz. Smith was ordered to reimburse her for a portion of her legal fees, later tabulated at $3,570.50. (The GOP has since conceded the total was not unreasonable.)

Bongartz attorney Matt Krueger deferred comment to Bongartz, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday’s ruling or the expected appeal.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.