PEORIA: Versace officially withdraws: Ardis-Jenkins still in

Karen McDonald

Democratic Congressional candidate Dick Versace officially withdrew his name from the upcoming general election ballot, though the State Board of Elections must approve the tardy withdrawal at a Dec. 21 meeting, which officials said is likely.

That leaves the task of filling the vacancy to Democratic county chairmen in the 18th District’s 20 counties; they have 60 days after the primary election to do so. Each of the chairman will cast a weighted vote equal to the number of Democratic ballots cast in their county in the Feb. 5 primary, said Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the board.

In another race, Cindy Ardis-Jenkins, Republican candidate for the 92nd District House seat, did not drop out by the Dec. 6 deadline. Several GOP sources and the chairman of the Peoria County Republican Party said Ardis-Jenkins was having second thoughts, though she has not returned phone calls to the Journal Star since last week.

If she decides to withdraw, she also must get approval from the Board of Election’s eight-member panel. The board then would send amended notices to local clerks noting the deletion.

Election officials contacted in Peoria County, Tazewell County and the city of Peoria said if they get notice of the withdrawals in late December, that still won’t be too late to omit the names from ballots. Dec. 24 actually is the last day the Board of Elections can certify names of Republican candidates for president, delegate and alternate delegate, so ballots can’t be printed before then anyway.

The city of Peoria won’t begin printing ballots until Dec. 27; making minimal last-minute changes isn’t a problem, an official said. The Peoria County Clerk’s office uses the same system.

Ardis-Jenkins is seeking the seat currently held by state Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, who is running for the 18th Congressional district. If she withdraws, the chairman of the Peoria County Central Committee, along with two members of the committee who are elected by the central committee, cast a majority vote to fill the vacancy, Sturm said.

The Republican nominee will face off against one of two Democrats: Peoria County Board member Allen Mayer, 35, or Jehan Gordon, 26, in the general election.

In the 18th District, Versace, a former Bradley University and NBA basketball coach, announced last week he was dropping out of the race for "unforeseen personal circumstances."

The three Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for the Congressional seat are Schock, Heartland Partnership CEO Jim McConoughey and former Peoria city councilman John Morris.

Karen McDonald can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or Bernard Schoenburg of Gatehouse News Service contributed to this report.