Nearly three weeks after being ineligible to run for the Democratic primary, one of Cook County’s main rivals Sheriff Tom Dart was allowed to rejoin the race on Monday by a Cook County judge who ruled the county electoral council had made a mistake. committed by removing her from the vote.
Carmen Navarro Gercone’s successful appeal against a Cook County Electoral Board decision comes with just over a month left before the June 28 primary. Dart’s campaign had argued that she was ineligible to run under a controversial new state law that requires sheriff’s candidates to be registered law enforcement officers.
In a succinct ruling on Monday, Judge Nichole Patton called the board’s actions “a clear breach of duty” and said the board’s decision was erroneously based on an interpretation of the law from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. .
“The (Electoral) Council has not made a decision on matters of fact. The Board was unable to make an independent judgment. The board has just thrown its hands in the air and taken an unprecedented stance to reassign their legal duties to another agency,” Patton wrote in her statement.
At a news conference on Monday, Navarro Gercone praised the judge’s decision and said she hopes “voters are ready” to tackle issues such as electronic surveillance reform, the sheriff’s methods of handling search warrants and better training for police and correctional officers.
The Dart campaign plans to appeal Patton’s ruling “so voters can be confident that they will actually vote for candidates legally eligible to hold the office of Cook County Sheriff,” campaign spokesman Joe Ryan said.
“It’s incredibly important for voters in Cook County to know that those who run for office are legally qualified to hold that office,” Ryan said in a text message. “Sheriff Dart had nothing to do with making this law, but he is nevertheless obliged to follow it, as are all candidates.”
Navarro Gercone was kicked out of the primaries under a law that went into effect this year that requires anyone running for an Illinois sheriff’s office to be a certified law enforcement officer. Though never a sworn police officer, Navarro Gercone trained as a prosecutor and was once a sergeant, lieutenant and assistant chief in the sheriff’s office.
This new state law was hidden deep within the 700-page Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, or SAFE-T Act, signed in 2021 by Governor JB Pritzker.
Cook County sheriff for 16 years, Dart was once a district attorney, but never a sworn police officer. While his status isn’t an issue because he’s grandfathered under the new law, Dart received law enforcement certification late last year, according to state records.
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The board of directors voted 2-1 to remove Navarro Gercone from the ballot was made up of representatives from three office holders across the county: Cook County Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough and Iris Martinez, the clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, which is Navarro Gerconé.
The board members elected by Foxx and Yarbrough voted to remove Navarro Gercone, while Martinez’s designee voted to keep Navarro Gercone on the ballot.
Martinez had been criticized for Dart’s campaign for not retiring herself or her appointed board member, as she is her current boss alongside Navarro Gercone.
In February, one of the principal sponsors of the SAFE-T Act, State Representative Justin Slaughter, a Democrat from Chicago, told the Tribune that the controversial provision had been added to the legislation at the behest of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association. But he did acknowledge that there have been “several questions that I think, to be fair, need to be resolved.”
Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Sheriff’s Association, said in February that he thought the new rule was reasonable because “most people have an expectation that a sheriff is a police officer,” while declining to comment on details of the sheriff’s race. of Cook County.
Dart’s other challengers in the Democratic primary are Chicago Police Sgt. Noland Rivera and LaTonya Ruffin, who has worked as a police officer in the southern suburbs.