Former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno and attorney Sam Royko are both running for 1st Ward alderperson Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

WICKER PARK — Two aldermanic candidates have survived efforts to boot them from a competitive 1st Ward race and will be on the ballot for the Feb. 28 election.

Former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno and attorney Sam Royko will join incumbent Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) and Stephen “Andy” Schneider in the race, said Max Bever, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

West Town residents Dodie Anderson-Barden and Erika Gutierrez filed an objection in December to block Moreno’s bid to return to City Council, questioning the validity of his signatures and eligibility to hold office because of past legal troubles.

Anderson-Barden and Gutierrez alleged Moreno’s nominating petitions had invalid signatures and his circulators and notaries didn’t follow proper protocols under state law. Both objectors are neighbors of Royko’s, according to documents submitted to the elections board.

The petitions also included names of people with missing or incomplete addresses, they alleged. Some signatures appeared more than once and others look to be forged because they were in the same handwriting, according to the objection.

Hearing officer Barbara Goodman determined Moreno submitted enough valid signatures to qualify — but just barely.

Moreno’s campaign submitted 1,653 nominating signatures in November. But 1,023 of them were deemed invalid during an examination, according to Goodman’s report Wednesday.

That left Moreno with 630 valid signatures, just above the 473 threshold necessary.

“The results of the records examination indicated that the candidate had 157 signatures above the statutory minimum,” the report reads. “Accordingly, the records examination established that the Candidate submitted sufficient signatures for placement on the ballot.”

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno walks out of the Cook County Courthouse after being released from custody. Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago

The objectors also argued Moreno’s criminal history makes him ineligible to run under Illinois law, an argument Goodman ultimately rejected.

Moreno was appointed 1st Ward alderperson in 2010 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, then lost his seat in 2019 to La Spata by almost 4,000 votes.

In the midst of that election battle, Moreno was charged with insurance fraud and obstruction of justice for falsely reporting his car stolen. While that case was pending, he was charged with drunken driving and reckless driving after crashing into parked cars on the Gold Coast.

Moreno pleaded guilty in both cases. He was given “second chance” probation for the first case and community service and court supervision for the DUI.

State law prohibits people convicted of “a felony, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime” from holding public office unless they’ve been cleared in some way, either through a pardon or plea agreement.

Moreno told Block Club in October the charges were wiped from his record because he completed his probation under the “second chance” law. Block Club reviewed court documents showing the probation had been terminated “satisfactorily” in August, nearly a year early and over prosecutors’ objections.

Goodman agreed with that assessment, as did the elections board general counsel, The Daily Line’s Erin Hegarty reported Friday.

“Second Chance Probation is not simply probation. It is probation that when successfully completed results in no conviction and, therefore, there is nothing to be restored or pardoned,” Goodman’s report said.

“Having failed to establish that Candidate was, in fact, convicted of a felony, the Objector’s allegations regarding Candidate’s inability to seek or hold the office of Alderman in the City of Chicago should be overruled.”

In a statement, Moreno said the challenge “was a desperate attempt to challenge my legal record and mislead the voters.”

“This wasn’t just about challenging signatures, or a candidate’s residency. This was an attempt to deem me personally unfit to run for alderman,” Moreno said in a statement. “Instead of having a debate on the issues, they chose to throw everything at my candidacy, to no avail. While they, foolishly, wasted their time on a wild goose chase, I have spent my time knocking on doors, and listening to the concerns of 1st Ward constituents.”

Sam Royko speaks as the Greater West Town Community Coalition hosts a press conference about public safety and car hijacking on Nov. 16, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Jay Ramirez, who successfully booted an opponent of Moreno’s from the ballot in 2014, challenged Royko’s eligibility for the ballot over an address dispute.

Ramirez alleged Royko didn’t list his actual home address on his petition sheets, a move he calls “confusing and misleading to voters.” Ramirez said Royko, the son of famed newspaper columnist Mike Royko, lived on North Noble Street and not West Ohio Street as purported, according to the objection.

Hearing officer Joseph Morris found no evidence for that assertion, according to his report filed Thursday.

“On the record of this case Objector, through counsel, admitted that he had no
evidence that Candidate resided other than at the Ohio Street address,” the report reads. “Such evidence as there was, and as there could be, in the record showed that, in fact, Candidate resides at the address stated in his nominating papers.”

Moreno’s campaign fund paid Ramirez $1,000 in August for “consulting,” according to campaign finance records.

“… We had always expected to be on the ballot, and I’m happy it got decided and it’s done now,” Rokyo said in a statement Friday. “I think it’s important that people get the opportunity to vote, and frankly, I thought with 2,600 signatures, we would’ve been solid on the ballot a long time ago.”

Royko, Moreno and Schneider are hoping to deny La Spata a second term. The 1st Ward includes parts of West Town, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.

The nominating petitions from La Spata and Schneider were not challenged.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale Twitter @mina_bloom_