When a petition challenge bites you in the butt!

When a petition challenge bites you in the butt!

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Elgin City Council candidate Kyle Scifert handily survived the petition challenge leveled by former Elgin OCTAVE treasurer and failed council hopeful Roy Chapman on behalf of former OCTAVE board member and current council hopeful Julie Schmidt.
In fact, the Elgin election board trio of Mayor Dave Kaptain, City Clerk Kim Dewis, and senior city council stand in Terry Gavin all voted unanimously in favor of Scifert remaining on the ballot. Gavin put it perfectly when he said Scifert’s primary date error was “merely a technicality” adding “We are trying to encourage people to run for office.”

Kyle Scifert
Kyle Scifert

Should you want to read the full story for yourself, please avail yourself DH reporter Elena Ferrarin’s excellent account of those proceedings.
But while things are looking pretty rosy for our novice candidate, the political dust hasn’t nearly begun to settle on the folks who foolishly embarked upon this frivolous course of action. As I so frequently like to say, please allow me to explain:
1. This challenge was doomed from the start
The missing staple, errant page number, and incorrect date minutia may play well at the township, fire district, and village board level, but it almost never works in a city the size of Elgin. So it was futile to pursue it because those savvy metropolitan folks generally aren’t as enamored of their own political power and thus, they understand the spirit of electoral law heavily leans towards keeping folks on the ballot.
Unable to unring that bell, Chapman and Schmidt come out of this kerfuffle looking petty and mean which never helps your cause.
2. Chapman got the challenge wrong
To quote the challenger himself, in an error of “egregious” proportion, his own paperwork referred to Scifert as “Siefert.” The fascinating irony there is, the election board specifically noted that Chapman’s gaffe was not enough to dismiss his challenge.
The truth is, we all make mistakes, but if you’re going to go after a nominating petition, you probably don’t want to make an error even more “egregious” than the candidate in question has been accused of. So now Schmidt’s “team” comes across as petty, mean, AND incompetent.
3. Never mention your opponent!
It’s politics 101 folks. Unless your opponent is a damaged incumbent, there’s no point in providing any free political advertising whatsoever.
Ah! But as a result of this petition fracas, Scifert’s face has been in two papers for two weeks while Schmidt’s gleaming visage is nowhere to be seen. (Though Kyle, you might want to consider cracking a smile whenever you’re running for office.)
So the Schmidt team has essentially thrust Scifert into the frontrunner position among the non-incumbent city council challengers. This interesting dynamic gives a whole new meaning to the term “backfire!”
4. Chuck Keysor comes out against the cabal!
This second major politics 101 lapse will probably prove to be the Schmidt campaign death knell. You see, it’s one thing to move to the middle to win an election, but it’s another thing entirely to cast your old friends aside without a second political thought.
To wit, I may have been unduly harsh on the Elgin OCTAVE folks yesterday because current chairman Chuck Keysor told reporters he was “distressed” by Chapman’s objection declaring, “I’m happy Scifert is off the hook. It is not our business to kick people off of ballots.”
You really have to give Mr. Keysor credit for setting the record straight and sticking to his conservative guns. You don’t seen that kind of thing at the local level very often.
So now, not only do Chapman and Schmidt look like complete hypocrites, but they’re unlikely to get OCTAVE’s support which an Elgin conservative desperately needs to win a city council seat The moral of that story, of course, being that you shouldn’t go out of your way to make your former friends look bad even if it’s an inadvertent effort.
Chapman could still appeal the election board’s ruling, but that would mean putting out some real cash, going all the way down to a Chicago courtroom, and making all of our previously discussed matters exponentially worse.
A good friend of mine likes to say that whenever first or second time candidates announce a run, they immediately forfeit a third of their brain cells. I’d put it closer at a half because that’s what it takes to allow your ego to run completely amok and ego is the biggest candidate killer of them all.
Bears coach Marc Trestman provides a perfect analogy. He thinks he’s smarter than the game, believes that trick plays can consistently win the day, and he doesn’t honor the NFL basics that have held true from the first day the league was founded.
Please learn from this people! Nobody needed to campaign against Julie Schmidt. She did a fine job destroying her candidacy all by herself.

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