PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday August 8th, 2016, 3:43pm

Defeated Madigan Challenger Sues Illinois House Speaker, Alleges 'Fraudulent' Campaign Tactics

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's primary rival filed a federal lawsuit Monday, alleging Madigan and his supporters used "illegal tactics" during the campaign.

Jason Gonzales, Michael Madigan's vanquished primary challenger, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Illinois House Speaker.

Gonzales alleges Madigan and his allies used "illegal tactics" during the Democratic primary campaign.

"I knew that this battle was going to be a uphill battle when I started. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew Speaker Madigan was going to play dirty, but I had no idea that he was going to come and use fraudulent, dirty and illegal tactics to win a race," Gonzales said surrounded by his supporters and attorney Anthony "Tony" Peraica at the Dirksen Federal Building.

"It's time that we stand up to these illegal, fraudulent tactics that have been taking place for years," Gonzales added. "This isn't just about me. This isn't about me being a sore loser. It isn't about me crying because I lost. It's about justice. It's about justice for me. It's about justice for every candidate who has come before and will go ahead."

Gonzales, a business consultant, ran against Madigan in the majority-Hispanic 22nd House district. Madigan easily won the March primary contest, pulling in 65 percent of the vote.

The lawsuit filed Monday accuses Madigan of "tainting the pool of voters with messages that Gonzales was a convicted felon in television commercials, internet commercials, mailers, yard signs [and] in-person encounters with potential voters."

The suit further alleges that "Madigan interfered with the voting rights of Hispanics, including Gonzales, by diluting the Hispanic vote by registering two fake candidates with Hispanic surnames minutes after Gonzales filed his nominating petition."

A Madigan supporter, according to the lawsuit, filed nominating petitions for candidates Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez shortly after Gonzales submitted his paperwork, which he turned in about 15 minutes before the filing deadline. Barbosa and Rodriguez did not actively campaign in the 22nd House district race or have campaign websites, the lawsuit alleges.

"We intend to hold Speaker Madigan responsible and to prove in a court of law he is a fraud," Peraica said. 

In addition to Madigan, Barbosa and Rodriguez are named as defendants in the suit, as are Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, the Prisoner Review Board, Shaw Decremer, State Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago) and Ray Hanania.

Tabares is a defendant in the lawsuit because she allegedly told voters at an early polling site "not to vote for Gonzales because he was a 'convicted felon.'"

Between 1991 and 1994, after he dropped out of high school, Gonzales was convicted of six crimes involving the misuse of credit cards. Gonzales, who was "punished with a short time in jail, probation and fines," according to the lawsuit, was pardoned for his crimes back in 2015 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. 

All of Gonzales' criminal cases had either been expunged or sealed by October 2015, the lawsuit states.

Gonzales graduated high school at age 21 and went on to earn degrees at Duke University, MIT and Harvard University. 

"Madigan is not going to get away with this," Gonzales said. "I am not going to allow him to defame me."

Asked whether he intends to run again for public office, Gonzales said he has not "made any hard, fast decisions right now," though he stressed that he is not "leaving politics."

Gonzales' lawsuit seeks "substantial compensatory and punitive damages" as well as temporary and permanent injunctions "from further engaging in the foregoing conduct."

During today's press conference, Gonzales and his supporters were repeatedly interrupted by two men claiming to be from the Evanston-based WCGO radio station. The men shouted questions asking Gonzales about, among other things, his prior convictions and whether his lawsuit is being supported by Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign.

During the primary race, Gonzales received some campaign funds from the governor's allies and faced accusations of being a Rauner plant.

Gonzales said he is personally paying for his lawsuit's legal costs and that he has never met Rauner. 

"This is my own doing," Gonzales said, adding that he has wanted "to run against Speaker Madigan for six years."

"I've never asked (Rauner) for anything. I am not a plant of Governor Rauner," he continued. "I am an independent, progressive Democrat who's running to change Illinois. I have no ties to him. And I have no money received from him. I may have asked supporters that have given to him and also given to other Democrats to support my campaign, and that's the extent of it."

Madigan released the following statement Monday in response to the lawsuit:

Jason Gonzales cannot be trusted and his lawsuit is without merit. According to Gonzales' own court filing today, his criminal activity 'resulted in several arrests, criminal charges, and felony misdemeanor convictions.' Further, in an interview with FOX 32 News political editor Mike Flannery on March 4, 2016, Gonzales admitted to being a convicted felon. Additionally, many times during the campaign, Gonzales made statements about his criminal past. Gonzales' losing campaign against me last spring was funded with more than $1 million from supporters and allies of Governor Bruce Rauner. Voters of my district soundly renominated me based on my strong record of service, giving me more than 65 percent of the vote, and they emphatically rejected Jason Gonzales because they knew he couldn't be trusted.

Stay tuned.

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