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Holderfield: Possible Legal Challenge to Election Result

Republican Champaign County Circuit Clerk candidate Stephanie Holderfield said on Monday she doesn't want to file a lawsuit against the county's clerk's office after coming in second to a candidate who had dropped out of the primary race. But in a letter sent to County Clerk Gordy Hulten, Holderfield's attorney indicates a complaint may be filed with the circuit court to resolve the matter.

In a letter dated on March 22, attorney Mark Hewitt cites a recent legislative contest in which former State Rep. Roger Eddy withdrew his candidacy after ballots were printed. Hewitt said notices were posted in polling places telling voters that votes for Eddy were not counted. He said Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten should have followed the same procedure in Winkel's case.

"We do not understand why Mr. Hulten did not do the same," Hewitt wrote. "We hope to get this resolved very soon because if not, we will be forced to file a Petition of State Election Contest before the end of the month with the circuit court."

In cases where a candidate drops out of a race, the Illinois State Board of Elections has said votes for that candidate should be ignored. That recommendation is binding for state races, but only advisory on local elections.

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said counting votes for Holderfield's opponent, Rick Winkel, was the right thing to do since Winkel dropped out the race after overseas ballots were sent out.

"I don't have any disagreements with Ms. Holderfield. This is a disagreement about what the law says and how the law should be applied here," Hulten said. "I think it's wise to remember that voters have rights here, too. And 8,133 voters voted for Rick Winkel. I don't think any of us want to get into a situation where an election authority just has the discretion to just ignore 8,133 votes."

Winkel has said he will formally withdraw as a candidate after the ballots are certified.

When asked Tuesday morning if she would file a legal challenge to the March 20 election result, Hodlerfield said "all options are on the table."

"And they will remain there until I have secured enough of the precinct committeemen votes to feel like I can walk into that room and know that I will win," Holderfield said. "It's that simple."

Republican Party precinct committeemen will determine a nominee on April 12.

"Our top priority is that we conduct an open and fair process to nominate a candidate for Circuit Clerk," said Champaign County Republican Central Committee Treasurer Habeeb Habeeb. "All interested Republicans who are eligible to serve as Circuit Clerk, including Stephanie Holderfield are encouraged to apply."

Holderfield said more than half of the precinct committeemen have committed to appointing her as the nominee.

On the Democratic ticket for Champaign County Circuit Clerk, Barb Wysocki won a three-way Democratic Primary by just 16 votes.

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