The race for Cicero Town President is heating up with just over one month until Election Day. Yesterday, accusations of terror and violence were leveled at the incumbent’s campaign. And to show just how upside down things often appear in Cicero, the candidate who turned in the most ballot access petition signatures was thrown off the ballot. While the candidate who has violations that should disqualify him, has been assured his name will still appear. All sides are appealing.
Two weeks ago, this column detailed the four candidates running for the office of Cicero Town President. The group, consisting of three men and one woman, each have varying degrees of loyal history to the notorious Chicago Democratic Machine. But one stands out as an independent-minded reformer. That candidate is Lizveth Mendez. Unfortunately, her rivals were able to challenge her petition signatures and have her thrown off the ballot. Mendez is appealing the ruling.
Both incumbent President Larry Dominick, as well as fellow Latino challenger Juan Ochoa, challenged Lizveth Mendez’ petitions. That shows how much of a threat both candidates feel she is. For her part, Mendez vowed to fight the decision.
“We anticipated this,” she told supporters the day after the Cicero Electoral Board’s decision to have her name removed from the ballot, “Unfortunately, these kind of tactics have come to define Cicero politics and the Dominick administration who in desperation is trying to hold on to power by any means necessary to continue to reward family members and other political cronies with lucrative jobs and contracts at the expense of Cicero taxpayers.”
For now, the Cook County Board of Elections is still showing all four candidates on the ballot.
In rejecting her petitions, the Cicero Electoral Board didn’t question the overwhelming number of signatures, but instead said their decision was due to a technicality. “As you are aware, we collected about 1,400 signatures, more than any other candidate,” Mendez says on her campaign’s Facebook page, “The signature challenge process is an ongoing matter and part of the legal wrangling that comes with running for public office.”
Assuring her supporters that she is appealing the Board’s decision, Lizveth said, “I have done everything right and know that the courts will rule in the interest of substantive justice and thus, in my favor. We will continue to move forward on the campaign with my vision for A Better Cicero.” That last phrase has become the battle cry of the Mendez campaign. She insists that Cicero residents don’t just want a ‘new’ Cicero, but ‘a better Cicero’. And she intends to help them get it.
Incumbent petition challenge
At the same time the Cicero Electoral Board was tentatively throwing Lizveth Mendez off the February 26 ballot, it was confirming that incumbent Cicero President Larry Dominick could remain on, despite challenges and arguments that he should be disqualified.
Challengers insisted that Dominick was part owner of a plumbing company that owes the town for years of back fees. His opponents also accused the current Town President of building or renovating his residential garage without obtaining city permits. The challengers insist there is no record of Dominick ever paying for a permit for the work. Both violations would disqualify any candidate from being elected Cicero town President.
Ruling against Dominick’s challengers, the three-member Board said that nobody filed any complaints against Dominick at the time, so there is no record of whether or not he did or didn’t pay the permit fees, or whether he is or isn’t part owner of the plumbing company. The Board also said it was out of its jurisdiction to investigate the claims and the ruling was based on the records at hand, which were none. The challenging campaigns vowed to appeal the decision in Circuit Court.
Charges of violent attack
While each of the candidates waits for their chance to appeal the Electoral Board’s petition decisions, the campaigns aren’t sitting still. Lizveth Mendez’ campaign Facebook page presents an impressive collage of precinct-level pictures, showing the candidate walking the cold winter streets of Cicero, visiting with one family after another, and one business after another. The countless photos are a warm and genuine tribute to not only the regular people and families of Cicero, but also to Mendez, who seems to have a rare knack at being welcomed with open arms into every home she encounters.
On the other end of the political trenches, incumbent President Larry Dominick and challenger Juan Ochoa have spent the past three days trading accusations and counter accusations, including one involving a violent assault. The Ochoa campaign publicly accused Larry Dominick’s supporters of carrying out a campaign of terror against him, and possibly being involved in the violent attack on one of his campaign workers.
Sharon Starzyk is a candidate for Cicero Town Collector and an ally of Juan Ochoa. As the former head of ‘McPier’ – the powerful committee that controls Chicago’s Navy Pier and McCormick Place – Ochoa has a small army of Machine-funded precinct workers, not to mention scores of political hopefuls who intend to cash in on an Ochoa election victory.
On Friday night, while ringing doorbells and campaigning for her bid for Town Collector, Sharon Starzyk says she was struck on the back of the head while walking the 1700 block of 47th Court in Cicero. While receiving treatment for blunt head trauma at Rush Oak Park Hospital, Starzyk also filed a police report. Last night, both Starzyk and Ochoa held a joint press conference to condemn the violence. Speaking to the media, she confirmed she believed the attack was politically motivated and related to the hotly-contested election race.
Not to be outdone, candidate Juan Ochoa took to the airwaves today to accuse current Town President Larry Dominick of carrying out a terror campaign. Ochoa insists that he is routinely followed by Cicero Police cars and official town vehicles. He also claims they park in the alley behind his house and sit there for hours, spying on him. Larry Dominick immediately issued a statement denying the charges.
For now, the candidates will wait for their petition appeals to be heard and decided. And as this column described last month, Lizveth Mendez is the closest thing to a grassroots, independent-minded reformer in the race for Cicero Town President. The fact that she collected more petition signatures than any of her opponents shows the level of grassroots support she enjoys among regular Cicero residents. It also shows why the two establishment powerbrokers, Dominck and Ochoa, are so desperate to keep her off the ballot.
For more information on Lizveth Mendez’ campaign for Cicero Town President, visit her campaign website.
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