House Speaker Mike Madigan is the subject of a lawsuit filed Monday by his primary opponent, Jason Gonzales, which alleges deprivation of civil rights and defamation of character.
Gonzales’ complaint holds that Madigan and his co-defendants impeded on his Constitutional rights by actively working to dilute the ballot.
“Speaker Madigan’s tactics were blatantly illegal and fraudulent and designed to basically win at all costs, which he did,” Gonzales told NBC 5's Ward Room. “Its an unfortunate situation that Speaker Madigan has reduced himself to playing like this, but I believe justice will prevail and that's why I’m filing the suit."
According to Gonzales, a Madigan aide, co-defendant Shaw Decremer, was waiting at the Illinois State Board of Elections last November as he filed to run in the March 15 Democratic Primary.
Gonzales said Decremer then filed for two additional candidates, Joe Barboza and Grasiela Rodriguez, who are also named as co-defendants in the lawsuit. According to the complaint, neither of what the complaint calls "phony" candidates actively campaigned or registered a campaign website.
The complaint claims that Barboza and Rodriguez were selected because of their Hispanic surnames. Gonzales is also Hispanic, as is approximately 70 percent of residents in District 22.
NBC 5's Ward Room was previously unable to reach Rodriguez. Barboza said by phone last March that he is a real candidate. His wife, who answered a knock on his Southwest Side front door, acknowledged some people don’t believe he is a real candidate. When asked at the time if her husband is a bona fide candidate she replied, “I believe he is.”
Additionally, the suit claims the Madigan campaign worked to defame Gonzales publicly. Gonzales, who has had an atypical path to politics, spent two months in jail for the unlawful use of credit cards in 1991. All told, he was convicted of six crimes between 1991 and 1994.
Ultimately, Gonzales graduated from Duke, MIT and Harvard. Then-governor Pat Quinn granted Gonzales executive clemency and a full pardon in 2015. All of Gonzales’ criminal case files were either sealed or expunged before he filed his nominating petition for the race.
The complaint holds that Madigan and his co-defendants, which includes political committees associated with his campaign, used commercials, mailers, yard signs and in-person encounters to “falsely” claim that Gonzales was a convicted felon not fit to serve in political office.
“Jason Gonzales cannot be trusted and his lawsuit is without merit,” Madigan said in a statement Monday, “According to Gonzales’ own court filing today, his criminal activity ‘resulted in several arrests, criminal charges, and felony and misdemeanor conviction.’”
“Voters of my district soundly renominated me based on my strong record of service, giving me more than 65 percent of the vote, and they emphatically rejected Jason Gonzales because they knew he couldn’t be trusted,” Madigan added. The speaker is running unopposed in November’s general election.
Rep. Silvana Tabares is also named as a co-defendant in the suit. According to the complaint, Tabares tainted the voter pool by going to polling places during early voting and telling voters that Gonzales was a convicted felon. Tabares is accused of violating Gonzales’ right to petition granted by the First Amendment.
Journalist Ray Hanania is also named as a co-defendant for, the suit alleges, publishing defamatory statements about Gonzales.
Former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica is representing Gonzales, who is seeking “substantial compensatory and punitive damages" plus attorney’s fees and court costs."
At a news conference announcing the suit Monday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, a pair of men from William Kelly's WCGO radio show interrupted with shouts at Gonzales, asking about his arrest record and ties to Rauner.