There's something off when somebody who doesn't live here can run for a local office and, yet, can't even fully participate in the election process because ... well, he doesn't live here.
Such is the case with Rock Island County state’s attorney candidate Ron Stradt.
Stradt, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the state's attorney post, instigated challenges to the nomination petitions filed by three of his opponents, current State's Attorney Dora Villarreal Nieman, as well as the two other Democratic candidates for the job, Assistant State's Attorney Calvin Dane and Herb Schultz, a Milan lawyer.
Petition challenges in and of themselves are not all that unusual. It's part of politics that often one of the first things a competitor for an elected seat does is try to take his opponents off the field before the game begins. And as Anthony Watt outlined in his coverage of the hearing on this matter Monday, the objections are mostly about technical issues.
What's odd about this case is that Stradt isn’t even from Rock Island County; he’s a lawyer who lives in Springfield. And while the state code allows him to run for state's attorney even though he is not a resident of the county, the rules also don’t allow him to file an objection against a nomination petition because, well, he is not a resident of the county. The law is a strange beast sometimes.
Stradt is a former Moliner who was an assistant Rock Island County state’s attorney back in the '90s. And he's apparently wanted to be a state's attorney for quite a while. In 2008 and 2012 he ran for the job in Sangamon County — but lost both times. In 2011, when Jeff Terronez resigned the Rock Island County post, Stradt applied unsuccessfully to fill the remainder of his term. Now he's giving it another go in Rock Island County, this time asking voters to put him in office.
Frankly, we don’t think folks in the Quad-Cities will back somebody from Springfield to fill such an important local position. But the law allows it so, hey, give it a shot. Still, we think it's a bit much to enlist local relatives to try to clear the field in the process. Stradt's father and sister, who do live in Rock Island County, filed the petition challenges, along with a couple of other people. However, as Sarah Hayden of the Dispatch-Argus reported last week, there appears to be no doubt who is the moving force behind the challenges.
She quoted a county official saying Ron Stradt hand-delivered the petitions.
Of course, if that was the only wrinkle in this whole matter, it might be just one of those oddities that remind people how picayune politics can be. But it wasn’t.
Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney and Treasurer Louisa Ewert recused themselves Monday from the panel hearing the challenge to Nieman's petition after objections were raised. The two helped Nieman with the petition for her candidacy, so they were conflicted. That being the case, we certainly understand why they shouldn't sit in judgment on this matter.
We think the prospect of a petition challenge, which is not an unusual event, should have led both of them, particularly Kinney, to steer clear of helping Nieman in the first place.
Look, we know it's not exactly unheard of that officials charged with overseeing elections sign petitions. It may seem harmless, but we don't think it is a good practice. This episode is a good example why.
As we write this, we don't know what will happen with the petition challenges. We certainly don't object to tossing petitions if there are substantive problems. But it would be a perversion of a local election if candidates who do live here are wiped off the ballot on a technicality in favor of someone who does not.