A number of Lake County Democrats are finally being hit with the fallout from the tainted petitions containing alleged forgeries of persons both alive and dead. The Daily Herald is reporting today that the two indicted campaign workers for State Senator Terry Link (Jerry D. Knight and Kenneth Davison) also "circulated" petitions for seven other Lake County Democrats, including incumbents like Coronor Dr. Richard Keller and Recorder of Deeds Mary Ellen Vanderventer, as well as candidates like Michael D. Jacobs (running for State's Attorney against Mike Waller), Cynthia Pruim Haran (who is running for Circuit Court Clerk against Sally Coffelt), Jim Parks (running against JoAnn Osmond in the 61st legislative district) and Diane Hewitt (running for county board Dist. 2 against Randy Whitmore).
Those Democrats that were contacted by the Daily Herald expressed shock and horror, as if this was the biggest surprise of their lives. Former Vice-chair of the Lake County Dems, "Sneaky" Pete Couvall, who hired Knight and Davison, stated that "The only thing I'm guilty of is being hustled by a couple of con artists." Coroner Richard Keller, whose petitions were circulated as a block with the other Dem county-wide candidates, said he was unaware Knight or Johnson had worked on his petitions. "I found out later that (the paperwork) included those gentlemen and that there were irregularities," Keller said. The Herald reports that Hewitt said she knew Knight gathered signatures for her but was unaware of any irregularities. Parks said he learned Knight and Davison worked on his petition after the fact, and called the irregularities embarrassing.
Oh, how the passage of time (and a few indictments) bring some clarity to the situation.
For those of you new to the scene, this space and the Lake County GOP have been talking about this since last November, when Link's Dem primary opponent Jerry Johnson first identified the signatures of dead people on Link's petitions. Things just snowballed from there, culminating in an investigation by the Lake County State's Attorney and the return of indictments of the two paid petition circulators yesterday.
But, way back in December 2007, Lake County GOP Chairman Dan Venturi pointed out that not only had these two individuals circulated petitions for Link, but also these other candidates. His letter was published in the Lake County News-Sun and you can read it here. But even before Venturi's letter was published, this story was all over the newspapers.
Only now, however, after all of the Dem candidates, including Link, are secure in their positions on the general election ballot in November, are these candidates willing to discuss the tainted petitions and apparently admit they'd been collectively bilked (so they say) by these two devious men. Prior to this, only Link would talk, and his statements amounted to a zillion reasons why this was all nonsense, or perhaps the work of the Republicans.
As we have said many times here, we suspect the reason why Senator Link rebuffed all calls for an investigation of his own into the allegations of forgery was that he was afraid that if he looked too closely, the petitions circulated by Knight and Davison (which amounted to over 75% of Link's total signatures) would have shown to be invalid, and Link would not have had enough legitimate signatures to remain on the ballot. To remind everyone, that would have meant that Link would have had to run as a write-in candidate, either against Jerry Johnson directly as the other Dem primary candidate, or face the possibility of both men running as write-ins. A man with the ego the size of Terry Link's would never have been able to stomach that.
The Lake County Dems as a group should be condemned for their silence and refusal to confront the seriousness of this situation until the Lake County State's Attorney had to indict the Dems' petition circulators, and the press finally started making some phone calls to get these people on the record. This bunch collectively has about enough integrity to fill a thimble.
It may be too late to get them off the ballot, but not too late to reject them at the ballot box in November. Lake County citizens, do you want a crew with ethics like these folks representing you? It will be your choice.
BONUS CONTENT: Read some biting comments from the News-Sun "News Hound" here.
UPDATED 8/16/08: The Daily Herald reports that Kenneth Davison surrendered to authorities last night. Knight is still at large.