CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County Board member John Reinert is withdrawing from the 32nd Senate District race.
An Illinois State Board of Elections hearing held Monday morning in Chicago confirmed that several of the Crystal Lake Republican's submitted signatures were void, leaving him with about 800 signatures – not enough to make it on the March primary ballot, Reinert said.
In early November, Reinert filed 2,028 signatures – more than double the 1,000-signature requirement. Reinert said his supporters helped him collect more than 1,100 signatures, but his advisers suggested hiring an outside firm to collect more signatures to be safe.
Steve Verr, attorney and head of the Republican Party in McHenry Township, filed an objection to Reinert's petitions, alleging that many of the signatures were forgeries.
"We just didn't have enough to come in with," Reinert said Monday. "I really did look forward to a spirited campaign. We had a lot of ideas, like looking at [Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund] pensions versus the savings plan. I just think that we had a lot of momentum going and a lot of change in our plans."
Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections in Chicago, said the board will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday to continue to review Reinert's case. Menzel would not provide information on how many signatures were not valid or what state guidelines were not met.
Reinert said he was very frustrated with the situation.
"I put my trust in a company that was dishonest, to say the least," Reinert wrote in a statement Monday. "It was hired to help my campaign, but instead sabotaged it. While I fully intend to seek legal justice from these individuals who grievously damaged my campaign, I cannot honestly and with integrity defend their dishonest actions in an effort to stay on the ballot."
Reinert said he used Moline-based Sunshine Marketing to collect signatures.
Jen Hansen of Sunshine Marketing said the company is a small circulating company that subcontracts for signature collecting.
“We don’t like it when it happens on a small scale, but when it happens on a big enough scale to hurt a candidate, it’s even worse,” Hansen said. “There is no hard feelings at all against John, and I wish him the best. I’m a small business, and I’m doing this myself. Nobody is happy with the outcome of this.”
Hansen said this unfortunately happens in the circulating business, and this was the first case of invalid signatures that Sunshine Marketing has found.
Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, and Mary Mahady, D-McHenry, are in the running to fill the seat held by Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry. Althoff spent the past 14 years in the state Senate and is not seeking re-election.
"The choice to step down is not taken lightly, and only a person with honor and integrity chooses the hard road when faced with such obstacles," Wilcox said in a statement. "I look forward to working together, with John, in pursuit of better government for the people of our district, and our state."