American Legion Post 673 in Huntley will change how it interacts with political candidates following a dispute at its annual Memorial Day parade involving two candidates running for McHenry County sheriff.
The dispute at the parade on May 30 broke out over which candidate, Tony Colatorti and Robb Tadelman, was going to appear in the parade behind the McHenry County Republican Party’s float, said post Vice Cmdr. Patrick Conley, who didn’t see the incident but said the village fielded multiple complaints regarding it. The order of the line is typically determined on a first-come, first-serve basis, he said.
The changes will limit what kinds of activities political campaigns can engage in while attending events hosted by American Legion Post 673, Conley said. Moving forward, the Memorial Day parade also will eliminate political activity from its celebration, meaning candidates can still participate but not campaign.
Tadelman said when he pulled up to the parade, behind him were cheerleaders, and behind them was Colatorti’s truck. At some point, Colatorti had an “animated” interaction with someone from the legion, Tadelman said.
In a written statement Thursday, Colatorti did not detail what happened, saying “no one cares, least of all me, about petty political spats between my opponent’s wife and my campaign supporters.”
Tadelman told the Northwest Herald that some things were said to his wife, but also declined to elaborate.
“It’s frustrating for me,” Tadelman said. “I don’t disagree with the legion that Memorial Day probably shouldn’t be a political parade. … I was disappointed with what happened.”
Ultimately, the parade stepped off with Colatorti ahead of Tadelman.
The situation led the post to also pull Colatorti’s sponsorship to its annual VetFest, which is scheduled for June 22, Conley said. Tadelman’s sponsorship will not be pulled. Conley said the post didn’t have an issue with Tadelman, as it was Colatorti “trying to jam his way in,” according to the complaints received.
“They forgot what Memorial Day was about,” Conley said. “Not an argument, not a political statement.”
On his sponsorship being pulled, Colatorti said his campaign has sponsored “numerous community events,” and said he thinks it was pulled due to Tadelman’s “political intimidation.”
“I’m focused on winning this election, changing the culture in the sheriff’s office, and keeping McHenry County residents safe,” Colatorti said in the statement.
Huntley Village President Timothy Hoeft said he didn’t see the interactions, but received several calls from residents upset about it. Hoeft has publicly endorsed Tadelman in the sheriff’s race.
“I was in the front, so I didn’t see everything,” he said. “The Memorial Day parade should be about the veterans and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. … I don’t think there should be political campaigning at the parade.”
Orville Brettman, the parade chairman for the McHenry County Republican Party, was at that section of the parade but didn’t see the disagreement. He said the way the parade was run was “total disorganization,” which is what he thinks caused the disagreement.
Other parades he’s been a part of have a different system that sees the sequence of the parade planned and assigned, he said.
“The parade itself was a masterpiece of disorganization,” Brettman said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. ... I don’t blame either of them for what happened.”
Conley disagreed, saying those involved weren’t following instructions.
Despite all this, the post’s annual VetFest is sponsored by multiple political candidates, Cmdr. Don Smolinski said. The post does not allow campaigning at the event as it is a non-political organization.
“All campaigns will be notified beforehand that there will be no signage or campaigning allowed,” he said.
This was a policy Brettman disagreed with.
“That’s pretty curious,” he said. “They’ll take our money, but we can’t talk.”
Although, both Conley and Smolinski said the spat was not a typical issue for the parade. The primary this year being pushed back to June, as opposed to in either March or April, has brought political campaigning to the parade and other events for the first time ever.
“We’ve never had political campaigns sponsor [VetFest],” Smolinski said. “This is the first time due to the scheduling of the primary. … It’s a special circumstance.”