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By Michael Romain
Some months after Tony Favela, 30, a third-year law student at John Marshal Law School, decided to run as a Democratic candidate for 77th District State Representative, his friends, family members, political supporters and people who simply signed his nominating petitions began receiving visits from at least two men, sometimes three, posing as election inspectors.
They were armed with flashlights, a stack of petition signatures, an enlarged photo of the aspiring politician and a steely resolve to force Favela out of the race–even if it meant scaring some folks to do it.
The men allegedly yelled out accusations of election fraud against Favela to his aunt’s face. They made threatening visits to the elderly parents of some of Favela’s friends. They were even able to scare one of his friends’ mothers into signing an affidavit that effectively negated her signature on Favela’s nominating petition, which she’d signed so she could eventually vote for him in the ensuing Democratic primary election.
When I called the Illinois State Board of Elections to verify whether the men might have been with the state, the answer was an emphatic, “No.” A quick call to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to report the men’s behavior and it was suggested that I call local law enforcement.
On December 5, just hours after a tsunami of complaints came flooding into his cell phone and Facebook accounts, Favela began piecing together a pattern. On his Facebook timeline that day, he wrote: “I’ve gotten numerous calls from residents and it seems that they are targeting older Spanish-speaking women and making them sign a piece of paper that says that they didn’t sign for me.”
Favela took to the streets, driving around in the hopes of catching Hugo and Joe in action. He rode around in the precincts where the complaints were most concentrated (primarily in Melrose Park) and waited until someone would call confirming that the men were nearby.
Eventually, Favela caught up with Hugo and Joe at a Melrose Park gas station, where the former, in response to Favela’s earnest pleads for him to stop, simply grinned and pointed the gas nozzle at the young candidate’s camera phone, as if it were a gun.
“Go to hell,” Hugo said, before driving off in a black convertible BMW that sported telling vanity plates: HUGO CHV. Chavez’s brazenness, however, was less cause for Favela’s concern than the deep conviction that he’d entertained the moment he discovered what Chavez and company were up to.
“I know that they work for [Illinois House Speaker Michael] Madigan,” said Favela, as we drove around on Friday, December 6. He’d been getting calls and text messages throughout the day to notify him about all sorts of eery visitations. He prowled for at least two hours, always a step or two behind the men. He’d gotten at least four calls or texts within that span notifying him of various visitations, but the men never materialized.
At least not physically. After a few leads, Favela discovered that Chavez may be employed in the Office of Business and Workforce Diversity at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). My two calls to the department’s deputy director went unanswered.
So far, the best confirmation of Chavez’s possible employment with IDOT is a photo (below) Favela took from the former’s Facebook page. A Facebook search for Chavez only yielded a slew of pages dedicated to the late Venezuelan president of the same name. Favela believes that Madigan’s people may have pressured the lesser Chavez to shut the page down.
As for “Joe” the accomplice, calls to the cell phone number that Favela’s supporters provided went to an automated voice messaging system and have yet to be returned.
I asked how he could be so sure that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is the puppet master behind Chavez and company’s trail of intimidation. He directed me to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, which records every person who requests for candidate petitions.
The only way the men could’ve known which people to target is if they had possession of Favela’s petitions. And the only way they could’ve gotten a hold of those petitions is if they themselves requested them, stole them from someone’s possession or were deliberately given them by a third party.
The legality of the men’s actions are problematic to say the least. Article 29, Section 4 of the Illinois Election Code says this:
Prevention of voting or candidate support.
Any person who, by force, intimidation, threat, deception or forgery, knowingly prevents any other person from (a) registering to vote, or (b) lawfully voting, supporting or opposing the nomination or election of any person for public office or any public question voted upon at any election, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.