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Senator accused of sexual harassment fighting to stay on ballot

Illinois+State+Capitol+in+Springfield.+%28TNS%29
Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

By Monique Garcia | Chicago Tribune

An attorney for state Sen. Ira Silverstein predicts the Chicago Democrat eventually will overcome a challenge to his spot on the primary ballot, allowing him to continue his bid for re-election.

At issue are the petition signatures a candidate needs to run for office. A preliminary examination of Silverstein’s paperwork raised questions about enough of the signatures to leave him about 45 short of the 1,000 needed, an election official said.

Silverstein is facing four primary challengers in a contest that started after a victims’ rights advocate accused him of sexual harassment as she was working with him to pass a bill. Silverstein has disputed the allegations and said he apologized “if I made her uncomfortable.”

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Asked about the issue with his signatures, Silverstein said he was “not an expert on the topic” and referred a reporter to his attorney, longtime election lawyer James Nally.

Nally said he would not comment on the pending case “other than to say that when the process is complete, and it is not yet complete, I believe that the candidate will be on the ballot.”

Chicago election officials will hold a hearing in the case on Monday. No final decision will be made, but a hearing officer eventually will recommend whether Chicago election officials should keep Silverstein on the ballot.

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen said there are ways that signatures in question could be “rehabilitated.” That includes confirming the address of someone who signed the petition but may have transposed some numbers. Or in cases where a signature doesn’t appear to match what is on file in the voter database, a candidate can obtain affidavits in which the signer swears it is their writing.

While several Democratic candidates for governor have called on Silverstein to step down following the harassment allegation, he has pressed forward as lawmakers have scrambled to address the fallout. That includes the appointment of a new inspector general to look into ethics complaints filed against legislators and staff, a post that sat empty for years as accusations piled up.

Records show that as of December, Silverstein will hit 20 years in the legislative pension system, meaning he will be eligible for a yearly payment of 85 percent of his final legislative salary. In 2017, his yearly salary totaled almost $88,500, according to the comptroller’s office.

Silverstein’s accuser, Denise Rotheimer, had filed to run for the Illinois House as a Republican in a Lake County district. Her petition signatures were challenged, and she has since withdrawn her candidacy.

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(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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