McKenzie will run as write-in candidate

Posted: Jan. 10, 2013 9:49 am Updated: Jan. 24, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A 1st Ward aldermanic candidate who withdrew from the race last month after questions arose about his eligibility to serve on the Quincy City Council is now planning a write-in campaign.

Ronnie McKenzie, who originally filed as a Republican to oppose incumbent Democratic Alderman Virgil Goehl, said Wednesday he has filed as a write-in candidate with the Adams County clerk's office for the April 9 election.

McKenzie dropped out of the race Dec. 4 after Goehl filed a challenge to his candidacy, claiming that McKenzie was a convicted felon and had not lived in the 1st Ward "for the requisite amount of time to run as a candidate."

Documents attached to Goehl's challenge from Wisconsin Circuit Court Access showed that McKenzie pleaded guilty in Milwaukee County in 2008 to two counts of failure to support child -- a Class I felony, the least severe of nine felony classifications in Wisconsin.

Illinois law does not allow anyone to hold municipal office who has been "convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony." McKenzie dropped out of the race rather than have a hearing before the city's electoral board.

Now, however, McKenzie contends that failure to pay child support is not a felony in Illinois, meaning he should be allowed to run for the seat.

"When I beat Mr. Goehl, then it becomes a legal action with the State Board of Elections, because I've never been convicted of any crime that is relevant in the state of Illinois," he said. "I should have not withdrawn from the race, because I could have made them give me a legal determination at that time."

Ken Menzel, deputy counsel at the Illinois State Board of Elections, said McKenzie can run as a write-in candidate, but that doesn't mean he would be seated if he wins.

"When you file petitions (as McKenzie did in November), the Election Code has a process for challenging those," Menzel said. "There really isn't a process to challenge a write-in candidacy.

"The state's attorney or the attorney general could bring a suit to test his qualifications and potentially oust him before he is seated. For a lot of the offices in Illinois, a felony is not an impediment. (But) for city or village office, it happens to be an impediment."

Janet Hutmacher was the last successful write-in candidate in a municipal election when she became city clerk in 1989. She waged the write-in campaign after losing a controversial Democratic primary to Tucker Heckenkamp.

McKenzie also has filed for a seat on the Quincy School Board. State law does not bar someone with a felony conviction from serving on a school board, unless they are a convicted sex offender.