Update: If determined eligible, William "Dock" Walls will appear first among Democrats on the ballot.
Original Post: The only black candidate in the state's gubernatorial race publicly condemned Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn this afternoon. William "Dock" Walls accused Quinn of using a surrogate to undermine his campaign.
"Pat Quinn's sole motivation is to eliminate the lone black candidate," Walls said during a press conference in his South Loop campaign headquarters. "This is a trick that is being played on the voters of Illinois."
Yesterday, Quinn acknowledged that some of his supporters might have backed an objection to Walls' candidate filing at the state board of elections. A day earlier, Quinn had said his campaign was not involved.
The official objector to Walls candidacy is listed as Janice Dortch, the sister of Apostolic Church of God pastor Byron Brazier, appointed by Quinn to the Burr Oak cemetary task force earlier this year. The Chicago Tribune first reported the connection on Tuesday.
Dortch did not immediately respond to phone calls to her work number at the Apostolic Church or a number listed for a home address.
According to Walls, Dortch's objection cites problems with signatures on his petition and questions the whether it was legal for Walls to use his nickname in circulating it.
Walls is one of two candidates facing petition challenges in the governor's race. Ed Scanlan has an objection pending from fellow Democratic candidate Dan Hynes.
In an e-mail to the Current, Quinn campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Austin recalled Walls' history with petition challenges, one he filed when he ran against Richard M. Daley in 2007:
"Given William 'Dock' Walls’ long experience on both sides of petition challenges, we’re sure that he understands the legal importance of gathering adequate verifiable signatures, as required by law.
"In 2003, Mr. Walls failed to find a place on the ballot as a candidate for City Clerk after he failed to gather adequate legitimate signatures. Four years later, Mr. Walls filed his own challenge to Mayor Daley’s nominating petitions. That challenge failed when the Board of Election Commissioners confirmed that Mayor Daley did, in fact, gather substantially more than the required valid signatures.
"Under the law, candidates for public office are required to gather valid signatures as a prerequisite for being placed on the ballot. When a candidate has failed to meet that basic requirement, and it is proven, it is appropriate for that candidate to be denied access to the ballot."
Walls denied that any of his supporters' signatures were falsified, and he said that his nickname, "Dock," is spelled distinctively enough — with a K at the end — to avoid misleading voters.
"Most people who know me don't know who William Walls is," he told me in his office inside his campaign headquarters. "That's like Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill, or Pat Quinn. Not everyone knows who Patrick Quinn is."
Austin did not immediately respond to a request for comment related to Walls' statement on a nickname-related portion of the objection.
Walls insisted that his status as the only black person of 12 candidates in the race points to racial motivations in an effort to delegitimize his candidacy.
"Pat Quinn wants the black vote, and he's willing to do everything and anything to get it," he said.
According to campaign materials, Walls has served as national political director of Jesse Jackson's RainbowPush Coalition, a progressive organization.
Despite his relationship with the civil-rights leader, he told me he did not consult with Jackson or other black leaders before he went public with allegations of Quinn's "plantation-style politics."
"Not every fight is a Jesse Jackson Sr. fight," Walls said.
He argued that Quinn used a black woman, Dortch, to file the objection to avoid a perception of racism. Dortch's relationship with a Quinn appointee also has tones of tit-for-tat politics, Walls said.
When asked for another example of Quinn's alleged racism, Walls pointed to the governor's recent signing of a law — passed by the General Assembly and supported by a majority of commissioners — that limits Cook County President Todd Stroger's power.
"Now that Todd Stroger is president of the Cook County Board, the old rules aren't good enough," Walls said. "Pat Quinn should have stayed out of that fight."