Lawsuit asks judge to reverse board decisions keeping Stephens, McDaniel on Naperville election ballot

A Naperville man wants a DuPage County judge to reverse electoral board decisions to keep Naperville mayoral candidate Tiffany Stephens and council candidate Derek McDaniel on the April election ballot.

Arian Ahmadpour filed a lawsuit this week appealing his challenges that Stephens is not qualified to run because she has not lived in Naperville for a year, citing her use of an Aurora address to vote and file taxes prior to her house purchase in July, and that McDaniel failed to properly number his nominating petition sheets.

The Naperville Municipal Electoral Board — made up of Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, Councilman Paul Hinterlong and City Clerk Pam Gallahue — voted 2-1 to reject the challenges and allow the two candidates to remain on the ballot. Gallahue voted no in both cases.

A DuPage County judge Wednesday scheduled a Jan. 6 hearing date for the case.

Both will have to be resolved by Jan. 26 if the candidates’ names are to appear on the April 4 ballot. If they are not and “a candidate’s nominating papers or petitions are in judicial review, the words ‘objection pending’ shall be placed under the title of the office being sought by the candidate and next to the name of the candidate,” state election rules say.

Ahmadpour’s attorney Ross Secler argued at the electoral board hearing last week that Stephens, founder of Naperville-based nonprofit Kids Teen Rider, did not live in the city prior to buying her house based on the address she used to vote and file income taxes going back to 2018.

But Stephens contends she did live in Naperville, residing at her 1240 Iroquois Ave. office and with friends and family in the city.

Her attorney, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, said Stephens was essentially homeless and, as such, protected by state laws that apply to anyone “who has a nontraditional residence, including but not limited to a shelter, day shelter, park bench, street corner or space under a bridge.”

State law also says “a mailing address of a homeless individual may include, but is not limited to, a shelter, a day shelter or a private residence,” she said.

The electoral board agreed with the Krafthefer’s argument that Secler did not prove his residency point because he provided no evidence as to where Stephens lived prior to July.

In the McDaniel case, Ahmadpour’s objection was that the candidate did not submit signature sheets that were “numbered consecutively” as required by state statute. McDaniel’s sheets were not numbered at all before being filed.

Krafthefer, who also represents McDaniel, argued the objection was “hypertechnical” and there was no confusion or allegations of tampering. Illinois courts have ruled in favor of voter access over technical mistakes in previous cases, she said.

Two of the three board members agreed with that position.

Stephens alleges bullying, wants council ‘protection’

On Tuesday night, Stephens appeared at the Naperville City Council meeting to complain about the harassment she said she’s experienced since announcing her candidacy and to urge the council to take a position on protecting candidates running in local races.

“I am standing here before you today with some serious concerns regarding the new pay-to-play, Chicago-style politics that has been playing out here in Naperville,” Stephens said.

Residents should be “appalled and outraged” by how she’s been treated, she said.

“I was told — and I (have) been bullied — that they wanted me to back out of running for mayor because they were afraid that I will split the votes. I will not be harassed or bullied or threatened, and my character will not be altered,” Stephens said.

When running for council in 2011, Stephens said she was told not to run and that “things will happen to my family, and I’m also being told that as of today.”

She pleaded with council members and the Democratic Party “to knock it off,” and suggested that in the future, “the city council or the mayor can come up with something that can protect candidates that are running and putting ourselves out there in the community.”