WOODSTOCK – Independent candidate for McHenry County sheriff Jim Harrison is slated to give Bill Prim a general election challenge after he filed more than 9,000 signatures Monday afternoon.
Harrison and Prim are vying to replace longtime Sheriff Keith Nygren, who has held the post since 1997 and will not seek re-election.
Harrison, a Woodstock-based attorney and former sheriff's deputy, had 90 days to circulate nominating petitions and needed a minimum of 6,728 signatures, but no more than 10,764, to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
He turned in his petitions with the county clerk less than an hour before Monday's 5 p.m. deadline. Though the signatures weren't hand counted or poured over, the clerk's office reported that Harrison filed 954 papers and with up to 10 signatures to a page. It could be as many as 9,540 signatures. Harrison didn't have an exact count, saying only that it was more than 9,000.
When contacted Monday evening, Prim said he hadn't ruled out a challenge to Harrison's petitions, but needed to review the signatures first. He has one week to file any objection.
Prim needed 517 signatures to be on the Republican ballot in April, when he netted a narrow 97-vote victory over Undersheriff Andrew Zinke. Those candidates needed only a small percentage of ballots cast in the preceding primary election.
The disparity between the ballot requirements of each candidate is a commentary on state election laws making it difficult to run as an independent candidate, Harrison said.
He needed signatures from between 5 and 8 percent of those who cast votes in the November 2012 general election. That race featured a high-profile presidential contest, which traditionally translates to higher voter turnout. In McHenry County, 134,000 people voted in that election. Voter turnout in April was just under 17 percent.
Harrison required more signatures than those running for governor of Illinois, who needed about 5,000 to 10,000, Schultz said. Independent candidates for governor needed 25,000.
"It makes it hard for people who are independent candidates to come in and be involved in the government process," Harrison said. "I'm hoping we can break some ground here."
Prim ran his primary campaign as a reformer who could repair the acrimonious relationship Nygren had with State's Attorney Lou Bianchi. Nygren supported Prim's opponent, and Bianchi backed Prim.
Harrison, on the other hand, wants to "depoliticize" the office.
"People are looking for a candidate who's not going to be part of the political party process and who's interested in doing the job," Harrison said. "Maybe for once they'll look at what the candidate knows rather than who the candidate knows."