Moline Mayor Scott Raes is playing dirty. He has filed objections to the candidacy of his two opponents in the spring city election, based on a technicality.
The one and only reason Raes is seeking to have his opponents' names removed from the city ballot is to get rid of the competition. That's it. There is no higher calling, no greater good. He just wants to win — rid residents of a choice.
Fortunately, the opposition isn't taking the cheap shot sitting down.
Stephanie Acri, at-large alderman, and Bob Vogelbaugh, aka "Mr. Thanksgiving," collected plenty of signatures on their primary election petitions for Moline mayor.
But the pair failed to do what every candidate in the past city election also failed to do, which is to number the pages of their petitions. The current incumbent candidate for 2nd Ward alderman, David Parker Jr., also failed to number the pages of his petitions. No one objected to his candidacy, nor did anyone object to the absent page numbers on dozens of petitions in the past election.
On Friday morning, Acri, Vogelbaugh and a group of their supporters took to the steps of City Hall, asking that Raes do the right thing and withdraw his objections.
The mayor should listen to them.
This is not a U.S. Senate race. Acri and Vogelbaugh are not seasoned politicians, nor are they spending stacks of money to win their way into the mayor's office.
Acri said it best when she noted, between Raes, herself and Vogelbaugh, Moline voters have a "great choice" for mayor. By knocking them out of the race over something so meaningless and petty, voters are robbed of that choice.
The weird thing is, Raes is a popular mayor, by many accounts. Though the others could be expected to give him a run for his money, Raes stood a reasonable chance of winning fair and square.
For the "rules are rules" set, consider a couple of outside factors that are at play here.
In his office Thursday, Raes told me, "I know I'm supposed to number my sheets. I think the other candidates should know."
But the mayor also acknowledged getting legal advise to do so. And he said candidates are encouraged to hire an attorney to navigate the process.
As Alderman Mike Wendt, 3rd Ward, pointed out Friday, however, he also failed to number his pages in the most recent election, and he is an attorney.
Plus, the candidates had something working against them. When Acri ran for alderman in 2012, she numbered her petition pages. But she did so, because the forms contained a prompt at the bottom of each page. A clear "Sheet No. ___" appeared on each copy.
This time around, City Clerk Tracy Koranda made new copies of the petition forms and cut off the prompt at the bottom.
Wendt referred to the forms Friday as "defective."
"The city has failed these candidates and, ultimately, its residents," he said.
He also referred to Koranda as "a vital witness in the process" that begins Monday to settle the matter. The problem is, Koranda is one of three members of the electoral board, which normally also consists of the mayor and an alderman. For the hearing Monday to rule on the objection, Raes was replaced by a second alderman, given the obvious conflict of interest.
Koranda should be replaced, too.
Not only was she likely at fault for the "defective" forms, but there is reason to question her objectivity.
In a story Thursday about Raes' objections, Koranda told our Alma Gaul that her job is "to receive the documents as filed," referring to the candidacy petitions. In other words, it was not her job to point out to candidates that they failed to number their petitions.
However, Raes confirmed that Koranda rejected one aldermanic candidate's petitions because the documents had not been notarized. She advised the candidate on how to properly qualify her petitions.
The clerk does not get to pick and choose who she helps in the city-election process. By doing so, she has given the appearance of a conflict.
Despite the pettiness at play here, Acri and Vogelbaugh tastefully rose above it.
"I would like to apologize to the citizens of Moline for my role in this," Acri said Friday, referring to her failure to number her petitions. "Part of this is my responsibility."
Said Vogelbaugh, "Stephanie is a very nice person, and I'm happy to work together to give voters some choices. That's only fair."