The waiting game continues over whether a Mt. Greenwood resident will be allowed to keep his position as Republican committeeman of the 19th Ward after being abruptly informed last year that he was being removed.
Steven Graves, a real estate broker for OnLine Realty Professionals, filed suit last year to keep the position, which is an unpaid post that promotes the Republican party and helps find candidates for elected office.
On June 12, his case was continued until Aug. 7.
Graves filed his suit in April of last year, and several court dates since then have failed to produce a decision.
Graves won the vote to become committeeman on March 15, 2016; however, he said, on April 13, 2016, he received a letter from the Chicago Republican Party (CRP) saying that because he had voted for a party besides the Republicans in an election within the last eight years, he was ineligible to run.
According to Chris Cleveland, CRP chairman, the CRP passed the new bylaw about voting outside the party on March 9, 2016.
Graves cried foul immediately, calling the new bylaw “un-American,” but Cleveland said passing it was legal because the CRP is a “private political organization.” He claimed that Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and former Gov. Pat Quinn changed an election law in which ward committeemen, instead of the county chairman, appoint election judges. That set up Madigan, he said, to plant Democrats into Republican elections.
In all, 13 Republican committeemen were removed.
Grave acknowledged that he had voted Democratic within that time span but said he became a Republican, noting that he is pro-life, wants lower taxes, a strong military and believes marriage is between and a man and a woman. He also said he isn’t a Madigan plant.
Graves defeated Danny Carbol, a firefighter from Mt. Greenwood who died last October, with 53 percent of the vote.
Cleveland said last year that he, as well as 19 other committeemen, supported Carbol, who had lost two previous elections for Republican ward committeeman.
In April 2016, Cleveland defended the CRP’s right to add the bylaw.
“We’ve got a right to limit the leadership of the Republican Party to actual Republicans,” Cleveland said, “and if Steven Graves doesn’t like it, that’s too bad.”
Graves is being represented by attorney Kevin Sterk, of K.L. Sterk and Associates, LLC.
Last year, Sterk remained optimistic his client would be allowed to keep the position.
“I think that, in the interest of fairness, Steve is ultimately going to prevail,” Sterk said. “I think that he’s standing up for what he believes, for what I think any rational, reasonable person would think. They had the election; and the Republican Party powers that be, guys like Chris Cleveland, they saw the writing on the wall, and they knew that Steve was probably going to win. So then, they pretty much wanted to pick up their ball and go home.”
Sterk added that he respected the CRP’s freedom of association and that you “can’t force a political party to accept someone,” but he pointed to the fact that Graves was elected by the voters of the 19th Ward.
He also said the timing of the CRP’s announcement wasn’t fair.
“I’d like to see them just let Steve take office,” Sterk said. “They had their chance to object to him … back in November 2015 after Steve filed his paperwork to get him on the ballot, and they didn’t. They didn’t object at all.”