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Dora Villarreal's name to stay on ballot for Rock Island County state's attorney

Dora Villarreal's name to stay on ballot for Rock Island County state's attorney

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Dora Villarreal (copy)

Dora Villarreal 

A Rock Island County election board has ruled that Dora Villarreal's name will be printed on the Democratic primary ballot for the Rock Island County state's attorney's race.

Villarreal's initial election filings were challenged by five people who argued that the fillings were not prepared to the standards required by state statutes. The complaints included that she did not state in her filings that she was a licensed attorney in Illinois, that she did not properly identify herself in her filings, that some of the signatures on her petitions were not valid, and that her petitions were not properly notarized.

“It is this board’s decision that Ms. Villarreal’s name shall be printed on the ballot,” county Circuit Clerk Tammy Weikert, who headed the election board, said during a brief Tuesday morning hearing.

The other members of the board were county Sheriff Gerry Bustos and Rock Island resident John Welling.

Villarreal said she was thankful for the board's time and consideration.

"I am looking forward to putting this behind me and continuing to perform the duties that I was sworn to do," she said. 

The board issued the ruling in writing, providing more details.

• Statement that she was licensed attorney: Four of the complainants argued she was required to state this on a specific portion of her filing and failed to do so.

The board ruled that the election paperwork provided by the state includes a statement that the candidate holds all appropriate licenses to run for office. That statement met the requirement raised by the objectors, the board said.

• Villarreal’s name: One of the complaints was that she is licensed as an attorney under the last name Nieman but has used the name Villarreal or Villarreal Nieman while acting as state’s attorney and as a candidate. The objectors argued she had to document the various name changes in her filing.

This objection, made by all five complainants, was rejected by the board, but the decision did not cite the reasoning behind the rejection.

During the arguments on Dec. 26, Nate Nieman, who is married to Villarreal and was one of the attorneys representing her, argued the statute governing a candidate's name also includes language that states the requirement does not apply when a name change occurs because of marriage.

• Lack of notarization and issues with the validity of signatures: The board ruled that there was appropriate notarization and the signatures questioned by the objectors were legitimate.

Villarreal was appointed to fill the remainder of John McGehee's term as state's attorney after he became a judge. She later announced her intention to run for the upcoming term and faces several opponents in the Democratic primary race — county Assistant State's Attorney Calvin Dane; Herb Schultz, a defense attorney; and attorney Ron Stradt. The primary is March 17. The winner will face Kathleen Bailey, the lone Republican candidate.

Four of the people who challenged Villarreal's filings also challenged those of Dane and Schultz, arguing their filings were also not in compliance with state rules and were therefore not valid. The four objectors were Chris Beiderbecke, Jill Nelson, Robert Stradt and Robyn Stradt. All four were represented by attorney Christine Takata during the election board hearings.

No objections were filed against Stradt or Bailey. Two of the objectors challenging the other Democrats are relatives of candidate Ron Stradt. Robert Stradt is his father, and Robyn Stradt is his sister.

Stradt could not file objections himself because he is not a resident of Rock Island County, Rock Island County Chief Deputy Clerk Nick Camlin said previously. Residency is not a requirement for running for state’s attorney. 

On Dec. 23, an election board comprised of Weikert, county Clerk Karen Kinney and county Treasurer Louisa Ewert ruled both men's names would be printed on the ballot.

The board for Villarreal was different because Kinney and Ewert recused themselves after Takata raised concerns about their participation. She argued their circulation of petitions for Villarreal could appear to bias any ruling they might make on the objections against her. 

On Monday, Takata filed a petition for judicial review in the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Rock Island County. She asking the circuit to reverse the electoral board's decision and prevent the two men's names from being printed on the ballot. 

A similar petition had not been filed in the Villarreal case as of about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

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