Pekin Electoral Board votes to remove Cloyd from the mayoral ballot
The recent turmoil surrounding Pekin city government took another turn Friday afternoon when a split vote of the three-member electoral board removed mayoral candidate Becky Cloyd from the April ballot.
“My personal opinion is this is another way to discourage me, because this is more of a financial burden on me as a candidate,” said Cloyd, vowing to appeal the ruling through the court system. “But I have a group of support that I am confident that we are going to push this, and it's not just me. It's a group of people fighting for what's right for Pekin.”
The action is the latest twist in a deepening fracture among city leadership, largely between Cloyd and outgoing Mayor Mark Luft, who chaired the Pekin Electoral Board hearing.
Cloyd, a council member and the mayor pro tem, was among those who voted in October to terminate City Manager Mark Rothert, a move that Luft has said contributed to his decision not to seek re-election.
Before a packed council chambers, the board consisting of Luft, city clerk Sue McMillan, and council member Lloyd Orrick voted 2-1 upholding John Burns’ challenge to the nominating petitions filed by Cloyd. Orrick cast the dissenting vote.
“I expected it because of the animosity that is towards me personally from the mayor. Unfortunately, he chose to not use integrity, which he likes to speak of highly,” said Cloyd. “However, I will take this to the highest courts that I need to take it for this sense of precedent, for integrity, and for transparency.”
Cloyd was one of three candidates who filed to run for mayor, joining fellow council member Dave Nutter and former Tazewell County treasurer Mary Burress, whom Luft has endorsed. But Luft denied any political motivation behind his vote.
“Unfortunately, every great once in a while something like this comes up and somebody has to make a decision on it,” said Luft. “My personal opinion, I hope that the courts make it clear to everybody what they're going to do with this, and if it rules in her favor, then good for her. If it doesn't, then they're making the decision on how much bend is in the integrity of the process.”
Burns and Tim Latronico filed separate challenges to Cloyd’s nominating petitions, with the main objection being Cloyd failed to properly fill out and sign the circulator section at the bottom of each page. Cloyd served as her own circulator and had filled out her address and provided her signature elsewhere on the petitions.
Cloyd was represented at the hearing by Tom DeVore, the former Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General.
“These exact issues that were raised, those arguments have been in front of the courts of Illinois already, exactly as they were presented, and the case law is crystal clear that neither of those reasons are a sufficient basis to invalidate her petition,” said DeVore.
Early in the meeting, DeVore made a preliminary motion for Luft to be disqualified from the hearing. With the election code indicating the only barrier to eligibility is if the board member is also running for the office in question, the motion was voted down unanimously.
Earlier Friday, Burress issued a statement on email regarding the nominating process and the hearing.
“It’s unfortunate we find ourselves in a situation where the interests of the voters run against the rule of law and protecting election integrity. There are 47 people who believe Councilman Cloyd belongs on the ballot, and they did everything right when they signed her petition. Voters shouldn’t be punished for the carelessness of the candidate,” said Burress.
“However, when you’re in an elected office, attention to detail, following the rules, and transparency are critical to ensure people have faith in their government and our elections. This is an unnecessary predicament, but I believe our default should be to respect the intent of the voters who signed a petition in good faith to ensure there would be choices on their ballot.”
The hearing lasted nearly two hours, including 20 minutes of public comment supporting Cloyd and admonishing Luft.
“I think this is a travesty, a total travesty. I am ashamed of Pekin, Illinois, right now and the elected officials,” said resident Deborah Montgomery, with many of the other commenters echoing her sentiments.
After asking if it was mandatory for him to stay, Latronico left the hearing after the second of the 12 speakers.
Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman said Cloyd also has the option of running as a write-in candidate, with the deadline to file as such on Dec. 29.
Cloyd said she never had any optimism the hearing would break in her favor.
“I knew ahead of time that it probably wouldn't, just because of the prior situations where the mayor has already set his candidate as someone that's opposing me, (and) he has said I will do everything in my power to get her elected,” she said.
The seats in the @CityofPekin Council chambers are full for this hearing. pic.twitter.com/nB7hJRcbZm— Joe Deacon (@JoeDeaconWCBU) December 9, 2022