State board says Mattson’s name should be on the ballot for state Senate race

Ventura’s campaign says it filed a complaint of fraud against Mattson with the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office

Election 2024
2022 election, rachel ventura, eric mattson

The Illinois State Board of Elections determined Thursday that Democratic state Senate candidate Eric Mattson, a Joliet firefighter, should be listed on the June 28 election ballot, overruling an objection by his primary opponent.

Mattson and Will County Board member Rachel Ventura are vying for the Democratic nomination in the 43rd Senate District.

Ventura alleged a “pattern of fraud” in Mattson’s nomination petitions and contended that he falsely signed as the circulator on petitions that were circulated by other people.

State hearing officer James Tenuto issued an opinion disagreeing with the Ventura campaign’s allegation. A hearing officer typically is someone outside of the Board of Elections who previously worked with election law and is tasked with giving the board their opinion on a petition challenge.

Tenuto said in his opinion the objection did not meet the standard of proof of a “concerted effort” of a “pattern of fraud.”

Multiple people who circulated petitions for Mattson were called in to testify. Some said they did not realize they had to sign the petition if they were the circulator, according to the opinion.

Mattson also testified he was “unaware how or why the circulator’s statement was signed by him,” according to the opinion. Mattson attributed the mistake to “carelessness and/or rushing to gather signatures” and he denied any wrongdoing.

Tenuto wrote that any irregularities in the petitions can be attributed to “honest mistakes rather than a concerted effort to circumvent the Election Code.”

Ultimately, Tenuto determined Mattson had collected well more than the minimum of 650 valid signatures to get his name on the ballot.

An attorney for Mattson called the challenge to his petitions “a waste of time.”

“This is one of the most outrageous cases I’ve seen in my 50 years as an election lawyer,” said Burt Odelson, who represented Mattson during the Board of Elections hearings.

John Laesch, Ventura’s campaign manager, said Thursday the Ventura campaign had not decided whether it would appeal the decision. But the campaign still appeared to double down on its allegation of fraud against Mattson.

Laesch said in a news release the campaign contacted the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office last Monday to “lodge a complaint regarding the fraud” and that “a file has been opened.”

Paul Darrah, a spokesman for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, said he could not comment on whether the office received the complaint.

Laesch said the campaign took the case to DuPage County to get a favorable ruling as the state’s attorney’s office there previously won a conviction on a perjury case related to the collection of election petitions in 2008.

Odelson said the announcement by Ventura’s campaign didn’t surprise him.

“She’s a desperate candidate,” he said.