Election 2023: Objections filed against three Crystal Lake candidates, including mayor

Mayor acknowledges he may have to switch to write-in candidacy

Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian filed as a candidate Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, at Crystal Lake City Hall.

A challenger running for the Crystal Lake City Council filed objections Monday to three other candidate petitions, including Mayor Haig Haleblian’s, arguing that they had several omissions and errors.

“I’m an engineer by education and career, which means things have to be done accurately and completely said,” said candidate Donald Kountz, who filed the objections against Haleblian and incumbent council members Brett Hopkins and Ellen Brady.

Haleblian acknowledged the error and said Kountz was well within his right to file the objection.

“When I first heard, I was confused: What did I do wrong?” Haleblian said. “But lo and behold, I left a critical piece of paper out of my packet. He [Kountz] got me. I’m going to have to work a little bit harder and different than I thought [to win the election] but that’s OK.”

Haleblian omitted a statement of candidacy and a receipt for filing a statement of economic interests, Kountz said. He also argued that Hopkins cited an “ambiguous office,” writing City Council as opposed to council
member or mayor, on his signature petition, and said Brady wrote the primary date, rather than the regular election date, on her statement of candidacy.

Candidates filed the morning of Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, at Crystal Lake City Hall to run in city political races. Current Mayor Haig Haleblian, left, was among the candidates filing.

Haleblian said in the likely event the objection is sustained, he will run as a write-in candidate for the mayoral election and “teach people how to spell my name.”

Haleblian is the only candidate who filed to run for mayor.

Haleblian said he thought it was “interesting” Kountz objected to only the three incumbent candidates’ petitions. Haleblian said he was his and other council members’ policy to not challenge new candidates’ petitions.

City Clerk Nick Kachiroubas said objection filings over technical errors like dates was just part of the Illinois election landscape, including in Crystal Lake.

The now late Mayor Aaron Shepley successfully got a challenger in his race booted off the ballot in 2014, arguing the candidate’s petition pages were not consecutively numbered and neatly bound as required by Illinois election law.

Crystal Lake mayoral candidate Donald Kountz

That year a challenger for the Crystal Lake City Council was also tossed by the ballot for the same reasons after the incumbent three council members up that spring – Cathy Ferguson, Hopkins and Brady – objected to his petitions, leaving only incumbents on the ballot.

While Hopkins said he was not aware of the specific criticisms of his petition, he said that “any candidate has a right to question any petition” and that “it is a normal part of the process.”

Hopkins said it was too early to say what he would do in the event his candidacy was rejected. A date for a hearing on the petitions will be determined in the coming days, Kachiroubas said.

“It’s part of the process and political gamesmanship that exists,” Kachiroubas said. “It’s how the state legislature has set up the election code.”

In addition to filing the objections, Kountz filed a motion asking that the the current and alternate members of the electoral board be disqualified from serving since the mayor, city clerk, city attorney and all the City Council members except Ferguson signed all the challenged candidates’ petitions.

“We want to handle the process right and respectfully,” Kachiroubas said of the candidates’ petitions and the review process. “That is what I’m going to make sure happens.”

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