Terror on the Campaign Trail (Part Two)

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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.

Hugo ChavezAs 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.

Bigger Fish?

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.

But Chavez’s behavior will pose even more problems if it’s discovered that he was out scaring the public during work hours–on the public’s dime. And they won’t just be problems for Hugo.

According to a December 6, search on the Illinois Board of Elections website, there were only two people who requested to view or copy Tony Favela’s petitions–Kylie Kelly and John Maxson, both of whom submitted the same address, 1201 South Veteran’s Parkway, Suite C, Springfield, Illinois. Home of the Democratic Party of Illinois–of which Michael Madigan is chairman.

Jon Maxson’s Linkedin profile lists his current employment as Communications Staff at Office of Speaker Michael J. Madigan. Kelly’s Linkedin profile lists her as an Issues Development Intern at Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program.

Madigan is said to be a supporter of Favela’s opponent, incumbent State Rep. Kathleen Willis, a fellow Democrat. Public records show that last year Chavez contributed $400 to the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, over which Madigan served for many years as committeeman. Attempts to contact Madigan’s office have so far proven futile.

Chavez is also listed as a vendor for at least three campaign donations, totaling over $1,000, from the Democratic Majority to Friends to Elect Kathleen Willis (see also here). When contacted about Chavez and company’s tactics, Rep. Willis said she had no knowledge of the men. “I know nothing at all about that,” she said. It’s a statement that the by-now incensed up-and-comer doesn’t accept.

“Hugo has been campaigning for her and intimidating residents since [Willis’s] last election,” Favela said. “So she is either lying or it proves that she is only a figurehead and someone else is running the show. She is being kept out of the loop in her own campaign.”

It should be noted that neither Madigan nor Willis are directly implicated in Chavez and company’s trail of intimidation. While the exact extent of Madigan’s and Willis’s complicity and what affect this kind of intimidation may have had on Favela’s candidacy is yet to be determined, the emotional damage to his supporters is undoubtedly done. As for those allegations of fraud?

If Chavez and company’s claims had any substantial foundation, Favela’s fraudulent candidacy would likely be facing a challenge by now. The deadline to file candidate objections was this past Monday. But as of Monday, Favela’s campaign is challenge free.

“They are making me look like a criminal […] The deadline is past and they didn’t challenge my petitions. Where is all the fraud I committed?” Favela said. VFP

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