State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons said Monday that Peoria mayoral candidate General Parker has until Wednesday to withdraw from the race before his office decides how it will proceed.
Lyons said his office could petition a judge to remove Parker’s name from the ballot before the April 7 general election or pursue removal of Parker afterward if the challenger defeats incumbent Mayor Jim Ardis.
In either situation, Lyons said Parker is not eligible to hold public office because he has a felony conviction on his criminal record.
“There is no doubt, Mr. Parker will not hold municipal office with those felony convictions,” Lyons said. “If his objective is to see his name on the ballot, ye-haw to that. But he will not serve office.”
Parker, however, said Monday he is “not quitting,” despite an inability to hold municipal office because he has at least one felony conviction on his record stemming from a 1984 car theft in Peoria.
“I’m not bowing out of the race, and (Lyons’ office) can do what they feel after that,” Parker said. “They can’t make me quit, they can’t make me get off the ballot. I’m not quitting the people. Never have, never will. As long as they want me to continue fighting for them, that is what I’ll do.”
Lyons’ office sent a letter to Parker Thursday demanding he withdraw within one week.
Lyons said he will wait until Thursday before publicly saying how his office will proceed, but he was hoping Parker would have withdrawn by now.
“I gave Mr. Parker a courtesy week to withdraw mainly because most people seek public office, you hope, in a sense of altruism,” Lyons said. “You would like to afford them the opportunity to self-correct an ineligibility or conflict. I don’t think anyone believes Mr. Parker was interested in self-correcting.”
Lyons also said Parker’s plight to get his past crimes pardoned by the governor began at least two years ago, when a request was forwarded to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Parker has previously said he hopes to get a pardon from Gov. Pat Quinn’s office.
“Mr. Parker knew very well that he was ineligible (to run for mayor),” Lyons said.
Resolving Parker’s situation also comes with a tight deadline.
Tom Bride, executive director of the Peoria Election Commission, said the beginning of absentee, in-person voting at his office could begin as soon as Wednesday. Early voting is March 16.
Bride said if Parker or any candidate files a withdrawal request Tuesday, it can go before an electoral board which can accept it. But once any type of voting begins this week, withdrawal requests won’t be accepted.
He said it is not the Election Commission’s job to remove candidates from ballots, even if they are convicted felons.
A judge can do that, Lyons said. But he also understands that by doing so, it can be costly, because ballots have to be redone.
Also Monday, City Council members were relatively mum toward the mayoral race. No one publicly called for Parker to withdraw. Mayor Jim Ardis could not be reached for comment.
At-large City Councilman Gary Sandberg said even if Parker can’t hold office, he isn’t breaking any laws by being on the ballot ,because the system allows it.
“Even if (the Election Commission) had the authority and the right to review a candidate’s credentials, as the law has been described . . . it’s against the law to hold office, not run for office,” Sandberg said. “It’s up to the system to cleanse itself.”
Anyone could have registered a complaint about Parker’s candidacy five days after the election’s filing date, which was Dec. 15. After that point, it could have been reviewed by an electoral board. No one did.