The ongoing controversy over campaign sign placement in the Democratic primaries for 7th District state representative and Democratic committeeman continued last week, with incumbent State Rep Karen Yarbrough’s campaign bearing the brunt of the latest accusations.
Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore, who is being challenged by Yarbrough for his position as Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman, filed a complaint with the Maywood Police Department on Feb. 28 stating that he saw a man enter Yarbrough’s campaign headquarters, 134 S. Fifth Ave. in Maywood, with two campaign signs.
One of the signs belonged to his campaign while the other belonged to Chris Welch, a close political ally of Moore’s who currently serves as board president of Proviso High School Dist. 209 and is challenging Yarbrough for her state rep seat.
According to Yarbrough, the campaign worker who took the signs had been asked to remove them by a homeowner who had given permission for a Yarbrough sign to be placed in her yard.
“(The campaign worker) hasn’t done a lot of canvassing and he should have known that even if people ask you to remove the signs, you tell them you can’t,” said Yarbrough.”
Welch said that he has attempted to stay away from the yard sign debate and remain focused on the issues.
“I have been busy for the last eight months running a positive campaign. I haven’t gotten caught up in that yard sign issue,” said Welch. “I’ve gotten complaints about her removing signs, and it’s a shame that that’s the kind of campaign she wants to run.”
In February, the Maywood Herald ran an article regarding Moore’s allegations that Yarbrough campaign workers had been vandalizing his yard signs, which Yarbrough categorically denied.
She said that Welch and Moore have actually been the ones abusing campaign signs, stating that about “seven out of 10” residents with Welch and Moore signs in their yards whom she has approached said they had not authorized the signs.
Both Forest Park Police Chief James Ryan and Bellwood Mayor Frank Pasquale have in the past confirmed that they had sent out workers to remove illegally placed Welch and Moore signs from public property. Maywood Trustee Gary Woll, who has worked for the Yarbough campaign, forwarded to the Review about 15 e-mails he has received from residents complaining about Welch and Moore signs posted without consent.
In January, Vincent Jones, a deputy purchasing agent for Cook County and a cousin of County Board President John Stroger who was working for the Welch and Moore campaigns, was arrested by Forest Park police after an altercation with a homeowner who asked him to take down a Welch sign he had placed in front of his Desplaines Avenue condominium.
Welch said that his campaign workers are instructed to always ask permission from homeowners before posting signs.
“They are told to ask permission, say thank you if (the residents) say yes, and say thank you if they say no,” said Welch.
Meanwhile, Yarbrough is also alleging that Welch’s campaign has attempted to discourage voters by sending out a mailing with misleading early voting times and locations.
The mailing, which touts Welch as “fighting for our senior citizens,” lists early voting hours for several village halls. Yarbrough notes in a letter to Cook County Clerk David Orr that the mailing incorrectly states the hours of operation for Maywood’s village hall, among other inaccuracies. The mailing also wrongly indicates that any 7th District voter can cast early ballots at the Proviso Township Office in Broadview, when in fact only voters from Westchester, Berkeley and portions of unincorporated Cook County are eligible.
“Misleading voters is my opponent’s cynical attempt to depress turnout in certain communities by frustrating and confusing potential early voters,” Yarbrough wrote in the letter.
Welch said that the information in the mailing was provided by Orr’s office. “If a mistake was made we apologize for that (but) to accuse me of providing false information to the voters of our district intentionally is outright ridiculous,” he said.
He accused Yarbrough of ducking the issues and running an exceedingly negative campaign. “If she’d like to debate me and talk about issues I’d welcome her any time and place to do that,” he said.
Yarbrough called the current campaign “the worst she’s ever been involved with.”
“The people working on the campaign are volunteers, and this should be a positive experience for them. It discourages them when they see these kinds of tactics,” she said.
Welch’s mailing correctly stated Forest Park’s early voting hours as Monday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 517 Desplaines Ave.
The primary elections are scheduled for March 21.