Joyce Drops Challenge of Daley's Petitions As Mayoral Race Gets Heated

Mayoral candidate Jerry Joyce dropped his challenge of opponent Bill Daley's petition signatures Wednesday, while the rest of the candidates' objections continued to make their way through the hearing process amid an already-heated campaign.

Joyce withdrew his objection to Daley's petitions, but his campaign claimed in a statement that the process "revealed a widespread pattern of forgery and fraud" in Daley's petition signatures.

Joyce alleged that three people collected more than 11,000 signatures to put Daley on the ballot, with Joyce campaign spokesman Graeme Zielinski calling that figure "unbelievable even by Chicago standards."

"Using paid-per-signature circulators with no idea about the campaign, candidate or election is a practice that screams for reform," Zielinski said, adding that the Joyce campaign would ultimately withdraw its challenge because it "can't spend the next months scouring the earth for purported circulators who, in many cases, are gone with the wind or who don't live at the addresses that were provided."

Daley's campaign declined to comment until receiving official confirmation from the Chicago Board of Elections that the withdrawal of Joyce's objection was final.

Meanwhile, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza slammed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's challenge to her petitions.

Preckwinkle's campaign challenged the petitions of five candidates: Mendoza, Catherine Brown D'Tycoon, Conrein Hykes Clark, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and Lori Lightfoot.

"Right now, we have the highest-ranking woman in Democratic Cook County politics, the boss of the party bosses, who, in the year of the woman in Trump's America, thinks that it's a good idea, that it's okay to challenge the petitions of five women of color," Mendoza said.

Preckwinkle's election attorney said when the objections were filed that the campaign thinks "women are excellent candidates actually, and it's just a matter with the most blatant, obvious flaws that were easier to file against that caused us to file these particular objections."

Willie Wilson, who previously ran for mayor in 2015 and for president in 2016, also filed objections to five other candidates' petitions: Brown, Neal Sales-Griffin, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, Roger Washington and Ja'Mal Green. All five are African-American, like Wilson, and male, with the exception of Brown.

Sales-Griffin is focusing his time and energy on fighting Wilson's petition challenge, lamenting the process as well.

"I can show people how ridiculous it is and how under-resourced so many people actually are and how disabling this is for democracy," Sales-Griffin said.

While her petitions were not challenged, Amara Enyia did see a major shake-up in her campaign staff on Wednesday.

Enyia's communications director Kristi Kucera abruptly departed the campaign, saying in a statement that, "In light of several unknown and troubling factors that I was not privy to during the campaign, I am unable to effectively continue in this role."

The specifics of her departure, and the factors Kucera referenced, were not immediately available, with Enyia's campaign saying in a statement that "internal transitions and shifts are to be expected."

Enyia announced her campaign before Mayor Rahm Emanuel revealed that he would not be running for re-election, and received a boost in October from an endorsement from Chance the Rapper - and two major financial contributions totaling $200,000 from Kanye West.

While 21 candidates remained in the race as of Wednesday, as petition challenges continue and with withdrawals invevitable, that field will certainly narrow.

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