An attorney for state Senate candidate Eric Mattson said a legal challenge to his campaign is “simple politics” and an attempt to “muddy him up” before the election.
Mattson, a Joliet firefighter, faces a petition challenge from his opponent, Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, in the campaign for the Democratic primary in the 43rd District state Senate seat.
They are the only Democratic candidates in the June 28 primary for the seat now held by state Sen. John Connor, D-Lockport.
Attorney Burton Odelson said Wednesday that Ventura’s challenge to his client’s nominating petitions will not keep him off the ballot.
“She’s making these wild allegations when she doesn’t know any better. It’s simple politics,” Odelson said. “She knows she can’t beat him at the ballot box, so she has to muddy him up this way.”
Ventura last week alleged a “pattern of fraud” in Mattson’s nomination petitions in a challenge filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Ventura contends that Mattson falsely signed as circulator on petitions that were circulated by other people, including Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry.
“I don’t think this is politics,” Ventura said of Odelson’s comments. “If I have to follow the rules, so does he [Mattson].”
The challenge may hinge on whether Ventura can demonstrate that Mattson not only did not collect signatures on certain petitions that he signed as circulator but that he was not even nearby to see them being signed.
Ventura said her campaign has collected about 20 affidavits from people to support that case.
“They’re saying that they did not see him [Mattson],” she said. “This is a question that our attorney did advise us to ask.”
Odelson said he also is collecting affidavits and will have witnesses for the hearing on the petition challenge.
“The law provides that you don’t have to present the clipboard at the door,” Odelson said. “You just have to be in the presence. ... You have to see people sign. You can’t leave it at a bar and come back later to pick it up. That’s what the law is trying to prevent.”
He said the petitions in question were circulated by a group on a cold day and at a time when collecting signatures has become more difficult because of people’s reluctance to answer doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They went out, as many people did this time, in a group and circulated together, using a car to travel and going door to door,” Odelson said.
The state election board met Tuesday to assign hearing officers to a number of cases, including the challenge to Mattson’s petitions. A hearing date was not set. But an attorney for the board said the goal was to have decisions by April 21 when primary ballots must be certified for the June primary.