February 29, 2024


State board boots Mokena Republican from ballot in state House race

‘Basically they had no reason not to let us on the ballot’

election 2022

State Rep. Tim Ozgina will be the sole Republican on the ballot for the 37th Illinois House District primary after the Illinois State Board of Elections chose to remove the name of his challenger from the ballot.

The challenger, August Deuser, of Mokena blasted the board’s decision, calling it unfair.

“Basically they had no reason not to let us on the ballot,” Deuser said.

James Richmond was the objector to Deuser’s candidate petitions. He claimed Deuser used an improper version of his name on his candidate petitions, “August (O’Neill) Deuser,” even though his legal name is August J. Deuser. Richmond claimed the name Deuser used on his petition was not on his voter registration and is not a commonly used nickname, according to a summary of the objection.

The hearing officer for the case, Ernest Gowen, explained in his recommendation to the board that Deuser’s use of O’Neill is “well beyond the purview” of state law because it likely would confuse voters.

In addition, Richmond argued Deuser went by his legal name, not using O’Neill, on his statement of candidacy. Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said candidates have to be listed on the ballot by the name they use on their statement of candidacy.

Deuser said he included O’Neill with his name on the ballot when he ran for Congress in 2016. Will County Clerk’s Office election records indicate he was listed as “August (O’Neill) Deuser” in the 2016 general election. Deuser emphasized he received about 83,000 votes with that version of his name on the ballot.

Richmond contended thatincluding the name O’Neill on the ballot is “an improper use of an Irish name to appeal to voters,” according to the summary.

Deuser said it was not inappropriate to use O’Neill because it was his mother’s maiden name and her family is of Irish descent.

“What’s the different if I’m appealing to the Irish voter?” Deuser said.

When asked if he was attempting to appeal to voters by using an Irish name, he said, “Of course. Why wouldn’t I? I’m Irish. That shouldn’t be a crime.”

The objector also argued Deuser did not properly notarize the petitions he circulated to collect signatures, which is required, a claim the hearing officer concurred with. Deuser conceded he did have the petitions notarized.

Finally, Richmond alleged Deuser did not collect the required number of 400 valid signatures. Deuser said he went back and tried to validate some of the signatures that were challenged to get above the threshold.

While Deuser filed a motion for an additional hearing on April 16 to respond to the challenge, he said his lawyer never received information about the hearing and therefore did not attend. As a result the hearing never took place.

Gowen wrote that even if the hearing had been held and Deuser submitted the requisite number of signatures, he should still have been removed from the ballot. Gowen wrote the signatures would not have been enough to overcome the other “deficiencies” argued by the objector, namely the discrepancy of Deuser’s name.

Deuser said he will not appeal the board’s decision and intends to run for the seat as a write-in candidate. He added that every candidate regardless of party should face a challenge, including Ozinga.

Deuser said it was “un-American” for candidates to not be able to challenge incumbents.

Ozinga failed to respond to multiple calls for comment. He was first elected in 2020.

The 37th House District includes parts of Homer Glen, Mokena and New Lenox.

The Illinois primary election is June 28.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.