Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday December 16th, 2015, 10:29am

Brookins Challenges Rush's Petition Signatures In 1st Congressional District Race

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL,1) could get booted off the March primary ballot if Chicago Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) gets his way.

Brookins is among the candidates vying to unseat Rush, who has represented the 1st congressional district since 1993. Brookins filed one of two challenges pending against Rush's nominating petitions on December 7, alleging the longtime South Side congressman submitted less than 60 percent of the legally required signatures to get on the ballot.

Rush allegedly submitted 3,070 signatures, and less than 750 were valid, according to the Brookins campaign. To secure a spot on the ballot 1,314 valid signatures are required.

Among other alleged problems with Rush's petition sheets, the Brookins camp contends there are multiple signatures from the same person and some names are printed when they should be signed.

"For years Bobby Rush has not shown up for his constituents and it's clear the community is no longer there for him," reads a statement from Brookins, who was first elected as Chicago alderman in 2003. "There's no doubt that losing touch with the district resulted in desperate attempts of fraud. From hundreds of signatures outside of the district to blatant forgery, I'm confident the Board of Elections will find enough evidence to remove him from the ballot." 

A Rush campaign representative could not immediately be reached for comment. 

In an interview last week with WGN TV's Tom Negovan, a Rush campaign official said the claims from Brookins' team are "ridiculous."

"This is a cheap publicity ploy and a frivolous challenge," said Brendan Shiller, a lawyer for the Rush campaign. "Our candidate has more than twice as many signatures as he needs and will remain on the ballot." 

After filing the petition challenge, Brookins sent a robocall on Friday to approximately 20,000 households in the 1st congressional district, which includes Chicago's South Side and south suburbs. The robocall was used "to warn" voters "of possible misconduct" by the Rush campaign, according to Brookins' team.

"This is Ald. Howard Brookins, Democrat for Congress with an important warning. You may be asked to sign a document for Congressman Bobby Rush who has failed to file enough valid signatures to make the ballot. Do not sign anything unless a notary is present and if you did not sign for him, do not sign anything at all," Brookins says in the robocall.

Under state election rules, affidavits verifying the authenticity of signatures have to be notarized at the time they are signed.

There are a number of steps in the petition challenging process. A hearing date for the petition challenge against Rush could be set later this month. 

Other Democratic candidates running in the state's 1st congressional district race include Harold Bailey, who is also facing a petition challenge, and Patrick Brutus. Republicans vying for the seat include August O'Neill Deuser and Jimmy Lee Tillman III.

Stay tuned.

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