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Conviction could knock Sanchez off County Board ballot

Al Sanchez

Al Sanchez

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Updated: February 9, 2014 6:37AM



Former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez wants to run for Cook County Board Commissioner, but he could be tossed off the ballot in a Wednesday hearing — in part, the argument goes, because he can’t run for office while on probation for a federal conviction.

“For some reason they think I can’t run in a contested primary because of my conviction,” Sanchez said in a recent interview. “I think that people know that when I was employed by the city that I did a good job and cared about people and we did good things.”

A remaining challenge pending against Sanchez says that the fact he’s still serving his sentence therefore means his signature authorizing his petitions as a registered voter is invalid.

Sanchez did not attend his hearing Wednesday but said he thought he had a “good argument,” for staying on the ballot. Sanchez said he believes his case may even “set precedent” for others who were convicted of felonies but want to get back on the ballot.

“I think I should not be denied access to the ballot and let the people decide if I should represent them or not,” Sanchez said. “To me that’s how democracy runs.”

Sanchez has said he got a “raw deal” in his federal case. But other County Board members — including the influential Larry Suffredin — said his past conduct should not be tolerated on the county board, particularly when he wants to succeed William Beavers in the 4th District. Beavers was convicted of a federal tax charge.

In a letter to the Sun-Times this week, Suffredin wrote that Sanchez was not taking his past conduct seriously enough.

“We have reformed the bad politics and government of the past,” Suffredin wrote. “The County Board does not need a convicted felon whose history is one of dishonesty and corruption to tamper with this solid reform.”

Sanchez — an ex-member of the now-defunct but once politically powerful Hispanic Democratic Organization — was convicted of taking part in a hiring scheme in City Hall that awarded jobs based on clout. An appeals court upheld the conviction.

Sanchez made no apologies for his conduct, saying instead he got caught up in the U.S. attorney’s dragnet and then was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

“I got the same as Jesse Jackson Jr.,” Sanchez complained to the Sun-Times. “He stole $750,000! I didn’t take money,” Sanchez said, adding that he thought Jackson’s prison camp in North Carolina was cushy. “He got to go to Butner. Aww man, everyone wants to get in there. That was where people would say, ‘C’mon man. I gotta get to Hawaii.’”

Sanchez served his time in Downstate Marion, which he noted was once the highest-security prison in the nation before it was moderated for lower-level security inmates.

Former Ald. Ike Carothers (29th), who was also convicted in a federal case, is also running for the Cook County Board.

He does not face a petition challenge.

Sanchez’s chances of staying on the ballot remain unclear. In the past, the state law has been interpreted to rule out felons for running in a municipal contest, including mayor or village board.

Last October, a Cook County judge ousted Thornton High School District 205 board president Kenneth Williams after he was found ineligible to hold the office following a complaint to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office that he was a felon.

Williams, 49, was convicted of aiding and abetting forgery in Indiana in 1985. His conviction was for an “infamous crime” that disqualified him from serving on the board under the state’s school and election codes, Judge Rita Novak ruled.

Email: nkorecki@suntimes.com

Twitter: @natashakorecki



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