The Republican leadership was faced with an empty seat upon Steve Williams' withdrawal from the State Representative race in the 35th District on July 16th. Orland Township Committeeman Liz Gorman, Palos Township Committeeman Sean Morrison, Worth Township Committeeman Shawn Murphy, and 19th Ward Committeeman Jim Parrilli decided to perform a search to find a replacement. I was interviewed by Shawn Murphy and Sean Morrison and was subsequently offered the opportunity to represent the 35th District on the Republican ticket.
After considerable reflection, soul-searching, research, and consultation with friends, I decided it was time to take a stand. I signed the paperwork and filed with the Board of Elections on August 21st. My candidacy was "objected" by a Democratic party contributor named Laura Harney from Chicago. I was sent a summons and appeared before the Board of Elections on Tuesday September 4th. The opposition hired an attorney who represented Barack Obama, Dick Durbin, Rod Blagojevich (before they were against him) and other Democrats. I was allowed 48 hours to seek counsel and hired attorney David Ratowitz to defend me. I fervently believe the people of my 35th District deserve a choice at the ballot box in November and I was prepared for a fight to remain on the ballot to provide that choice.
The initial hearing was held on September 14, 2012 and the Hearing Officer, Mr. Joseph A. Morris, deliberated for 5 days on the case. On September 19, 2012 Mr. Morris stated, "The administrative decision of the Board should be that the name of Ricardo A. Fernandez shall appear on the ballot as the nominee of the Republican Party for election as State Representative for the 35th Representative District of Illinois at the general election to be held on November 6,2012."
The Electoral Board met on September 20th and declared, "IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Objections of Laura Harney to the Nomination Papers of Ricardo A. Fernandez, candidate for the nomination of the Republican Party for the office of Representative in the General Assembly for the 35th Representative District of the State of Illinois, are hereby OVERRULED and said Nomination Papers are hereby declared VALID and the name of Ricardo A. Fernandez, candidate for the nomination of the Republican Party for the office of Representative in the General Assembly for the 35th Representative District of the State of Illinois, SHALL be printed on the official ballot for the General Election to be held on November 6, 2012.
On October 1st, the opposing attorney brought us back to court asking for "judicial review." It was my belief that they were dragging out this accusation to prevent me from running my campaign. The case was argued before the judge at 10:00 in courtroom #1707 of the Daley Center on October 11th. The judge agreed with the hearing officer and the Board of Elections and ruled my name should remain on the ballot. This late victory left me with just 10 days before early voting to run my campaign!
I think the voters of the 35th District deserve to know how my opponent's party tried to suppress my candidacy and leave the voters without a choice on the ballot. The Democrats didn't want the voters to have an alternative to their candidate and went to great lengths to declare their candidate the winner before the voters had their say at the voting booth.
The Democrats do not want an opposition candidate or any competition on the ballot because it is cheaper if they can run their favorite candidates unopposed. The State Senate, which consists of 59 seats, has 29 of the 59 seats uncontested on the November 6th ballot! How can we vote out those we don't want to represent us when there isn't an opponent on the ballot in about half the races? Some have said the best "term limit" is the ballot box. In Illinois, this is untrue because there isn't a choice when the candidates typically run unopposed.
My opponent has been resting on her primary win and acting like the incumbent; dodging all interview requests, failing to answer questionnaires, and skipping the debates that were demanded by the public. The voters deserve to hear the unknown candidates express their views, visions and learn what they plan to accomplish if elected. It is unfortunate that the climate here is one which makes these politicians feel entitled. I, on the other hand, have been running my campaign with full energy since October 11, 2012. I have walked door to door, attended every event I could, answered every interview request, attended the debates and filled out questionnaires. I plan to earn the voters' respect by running a maximum effort campaign and out-working my opponent.
This election will not be won based on how someone performed in a primary back in March. The candidates owe it to the voters to keep them informed and answer their questions, attend their debates, and return phone calls from reporters. This is an exciting election year and victory will not be determined by how the campaign started, it will be decided on how the campaign finishes. I don't think my opponent remembers the popular story of the tortoise and the hare.