An objection to the petition papers of state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) was overruled by an electoral board hearing officer on Jan. 8. The objection was filed in December by Forest Park resident Brian Kuhr, who claimed that Welch had filed more than 1,500 signatures, the maximum number permitted by the Illinois Election Code.
Kuhr also claimed that Welch’s nomination papers contained duplicated or forged signatures. He claimed that some of the signatures were from people with missing addresses or who aren’t registered to vote in the 7th District, which includes River Forest and Forest Park.
A summary report issued by the Cook County Board of Elections on Dec. 20 indicated that Welch’s nomination papers “contained a total of 839 valid signatures which equated to 339 signatures greater than the required minimum of 500.”
The overruled objection clears the way for a head-to-head race between Welch and former Forest Park commissioner Chris Harris in the upcoming March 15 Democratic Primary.
In a statement released in the wake of the hearing officer’s decision, Harris noted that the “hearings may be over, but the details of Representative Welch’s sloppy nominating petitions are still turning heads throughout the 7th District. The facts are: A sitting state representative turned in paperwork so riddled with errors and fraudulent signatures that nearly half of the signatures were disqualified immediately.”
Welch defeated former Forest Park commissioner Rory Hoskins by a razor-slim margin of victory in 2013 to win a seat in the General Assembly. In an interview in December, Welch said he was looking forward to presenting his case for re-election to voters. He also defended his petition signatures.
“I started collecting signatures of registered voters on Sept. 1, the very first day that we were able to and I knocked on doors in my own neighborhood, went to meetings, everywhere I went I took my petitions and I talked to my constituents.”