Forum of one
Young only mayoral candidate allowed as Frederickson watches
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Alex Young sat alone at the table Wednesday night as the only Rhinelander mayoral candidate officially registered to run this spring with another candidate he succeeded in getting taken off the ballot sitting close by in the audience.
The forum at the Rhinelander District Library hosted by the Northwoods Tobacco Free Coalition and Northwoods COPE could have had three candidates appear had Young not challenged the validity of the nomination papers filed by Chris Frederickson, who was among some 20 members in the audience, and Scott Counter.
Specifically, Young alleged many of the nomination papers of Frederickson and Counter were invalid because of a provision in state law related to individual signatures not being able to be counted if the signatures are dated after the date of certification contained in the certificate of the person circulating the papers. City clerk Val Foley then determined the other two candidates didn’t have the minimum number of 50 valid signatures and denied them ballot status.
Because only Young is the only registered candidate for mayor, and the other two had not gained ballot status or registered with the city clerk’s office as write-in candidates, Frederickson and Counter were not allowed to participate in the forum, said Oneida County Health Department community health specialist Corie Zelazoski, who arranged holding the forum.
Frederickson, who is appealing Foley’s decision to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said he has not registered as a write-in candidate because he is now seeking to get his name placed on the ballot, which he believes would give him a better chance of being elected mayor.
WJFW-TV news director Lane Kimble moderated the forum, in which audience members were allowed to submit written questions he read.
After reading the five prepared questions provided by the Northwoods Tobacco Free Coalition and Northwoods COPE, Kimble read a question related to the mayoral race now having only one candidate on the ballot.
“Should those 50-100 voters who did sign (nomination papers) lose out on their potential candidate due to what amounts to essentially a clerical error or an inability to read instructions?” Kimble asked.
“Certainly, I think those voters all ought to have a voice in the process…,” Young said. “I think it’s unfortunate that those errors led us to where we are today, but I do think paying attention to details is important, and especially that nomination papers are literally the most important document in terms of getting your name on ballot. I know that over the years I’ve always treated mine very seriously.”
When Kimble further asked whether Young had ever examined the paperwork in any other races to look for problems, Young said he “mainly looked at my own races.”
“I did look in this particular one – I requested copies of everybody’s papers,” Young said. “Certainly we’ve found out that there’s been some errors. Obviously, I only contested the ones that were particularly relative to me.”
Frederickson has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission seeking to get his name on the ballot, while Counter has also contacted the commission with questions but had yet to file a complaint as of Thursday morning, said commission public information officer Reid Magney.
After Foley would have an opportunity to respond to the complaint and then Frederickson would have the opportunity to rebut Foley’s response, Magney said commission staff, in consultation with the commission administrator, Michael Haas, and chairman, Mark L. Thomsen, could decide whether to allow Frederickson on the ballot. Magney noted the entire six-member commission, which has its next meeting scheduled in March, wouldn’t necessarily have to meet to consider Frederickson’s appeal.
The nomination papers had a filing deadline of Jan. 2. Young filed a verified complaint Jan. 5 about the papers Frederickson and Counter submitted. Foley said the correcting affidavits Frederickson submitted Jan. 8 needed to be filed by Jan. 5, three days after the deadline to file nomination papers, while Counter didn’t submit correcting affidavits.
In Frederickson’s appeal to the commission, he contends “Foley’s reasoning is an effort to restrict my access to the ballot as a candidate. Additionally, the corrective action of filing affidavits regarding dating, was done in good faith as a first-time candidate.”
Young, Frederickson and Counter each filed nomination papers to run for mayor in their bids to replace Dick Johns, who has held the position since 2005 and is not seeking a new four-year-term. Young’s name will be the only one appearing on the April 3 spring general election ballot, unless another mayoral candidate would be granted ballot status on appeal.