John Cunningham (Illinois)

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John "Jack" Cunningham
John Cunningham.jpg
Candidate for
U.S. House, Illinois, District 11
Bachelor'sChicago State University
Master'sGovernors State University
J.D.Lewis College of Law, Northern Illinois University
Campaign website
John "Jack" Cunningham was a 2012 Republican candidate who sought election to the U.S. House to represent the 11th Congressional District of Illinois. He was removed from the ballot on February 2, 2012 by the State Board of Elections,[1] but filed for judicial review on February 7.[2] Cunningham was reinstated during a hearing on February 21,[3][4] only to be removed again.


Cunningham has served as Kane County Clerk since December 1, 2002. He previously served as an Aurora City Commissioner and chairman of the Aurora Board of Local Improvements from 1965 to 1973, chairman of the Aurora Civil Service Commission from 1982 to 1986, and Adjutant General of the Aurora Navy League from 2003 to 2005.[5]


  • B.A., Political Science, Chicago State University
  • MA, Business and Public Administration, Governors State University
  • J.D., Lewis College of Law
  • J.D., Northern Illinois University[5]


Campaign themes


On his campaign website Cunningham listed five themes of his campaign:[5]

  • "Balance the budget by ending wasteful spending, duplicative and failing programs, and aggressively but safely working to open up resources and get Americans back to work"
  • "Repeal government-run health care legislation, promoting private-sector alternatives to restore the doctor-patient relationship"
  • "Stop the raiding of Social Security and Medicare funds to ensure long-term stability and protect our seniors"
  • "Promote tax reform to encourage business development within the U.S. Ð not to send our jobs overseas"
  • "Pass term limits on Members of Congress, requiring Congressmen and Senators to live by the same laws we do and end special privileges"



See also: Illinois' 11th Congressional District elections, 2012
Jack Cunningham campaign logo.

Cunningham was running in the 2012 election for the U.S. House, representing Illinois' 11th District. Cunningham sought the nomination on the Republican ticket.[6] He was reinstated to the ballot on February 21, 2012 after initially being removed on February 2. Cunningham was facing incumbent Judy Biggert in the primary, but was then removed again from the ballot.

The signature filing deadline was December 27, 2011, with the primary taking place on March 20, 2012.

Removal from ballot

On February 2, the Board disqualified challengers Cunningham and Diane Harris, removing them from the ballot. In order to qualify, candidates need to submit 600 valid signatures. Harris, a notary public, was unanimously removed for not having enough signatures, while Cunningham, was removed by a vote of 6-2.[7] Cunningham, who serves as Kane County clerk, submitted 1,265 signatures, but only 526 were ruled to be valid. A state hearing officer threw out hundreds of signatures from Cunningham because they were collected by a paid petitioner who listed a non-existent address as his home.[8] Cunningham previously attempted to remove Biggert from the ballot, but saw the challenge rejected 8-0.

Although Cunningham initially said, "I’m an elected official and if we did it wrong, we don’t belong on the ballot,”[9] he decided to appeal the case. According to Ken Menzel, Deputy General Counsel for the Board of Elections, Cunningham filed for judicial review of the decision on February 7 and that the court would most likely try to expedite the case.[10] In his dissent, Board member Jesse Smart said the arguments in the case were confusing and should have seen a different outcome, stating, “If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of the candidate."[7]

A hearing was set to take place on February 16 before Judge Susan Fox Gillis,[11] but Gillis did not receive the record soon enough and pushed back the case until February 21. Early voting begins on February 27. Military ballots have already been sent out without Cunningham's name on them.

Cunningham's appeal focuses on 31 petition sheets collected by Charles Leslie. All 31 were considered invalid because two numbers in Leslie's address were incorrect, but, according to Cunningham, "He had the right state, the right city and the right street” and such a mistake shouldn't invalidate all of the signatures.[12]

Reinstated and removed again

On February 21, 2012, a hearing was held regarding Cunningham's appeal of his removal. Judge Susan Fox Gillis reversed the Illinois Board of Elections decision, placing Cunningham back on the ballot. "To me it was the kind of error that did not merit disenfranchising voters," Cunningham said.[4] Within days an appeal was filed with the Illinois First Appellate District in Cook County asking them to review the decision of the lower court. It was brought by two Aurora men who objected to Cunningham's candidacy. Their lawyer, John Fogarty, asked for an expedited decision.[13]

On March 7, the appellate court removed Cunningham from the ballot, sending the matter back to the State Board of Elections for reconsideration. While the earlier rulings had to do with a petition circulator who wrote his home address incorrectly on petitions, the court order this time said two of Cunningham's petition circulators may not have personally appeared before a notary when certifying some of their petitions. The BOE has until March 13 to decide which petitions are valid and if enough signatures remain.[14]

Cunningham's name has been listed on ballots used since early voting began February 27 and it was included on the second round of absentee and military ballots that were mailed out. However, election officials said it's too late to change the ballot again and are trying to determine if they need to hand out notices indicating that Cunningham is not currently a candidate.[15]

Despite being left "in limbo," Cunningham said he would continue on with his campaign as normal until a final ruling is made. "I’m optimistic. We’re going to keep working until the fat lady sings,” he stated.[16][17]

Biggert had remained relatively quiet regarding Cunningham's case, noting only that he had previously challenged her signatures and that, as Kane County's top election official, he should be well aware of the rules. “He’s responsible for the elections, and so he should know how to fill out the petitions and who he hires to do that and whether they sign the petitions in front of a notary and collect petitions that are correct,” she said.[18]

On March 14 the court upheld the BOE's recommendation.[19]


  • December 27, 2011: Candidate filing deadline
  • February 2, 2012: The State Board of Elections disqualifies challengers Cunningham and Diane Harris, removing them from the ballot. Cunningham initially says he won't appeal the decision, Harris says she'll run as a write-in candidate.
  • February 7: Cunningham files for judicial review
  • February 16: A hearing was set to take place before Judge Susan Fox Gillis but it is delayed until the 21st
  • February 21: Judge Gillis reverses the decision by the BOE, reinstating Cunningham on the ballot.
  • February 24: Two Aurora men file an appeal with the Illinois First Appellate District asking them to review the decision of the lower court.
  • February 27: Early voting begins with Cunningham's name on the ballot
  • March 7: The appellate court removes Cunningham from the ballot, sending the matter back to the State Board of Elections for reconsideration.
  • March 12: BOE votes 7-1 that votes for Cunningham should not be counted, sends case back to appellate court for final decision.
  • March 14: Appellate court upholds the BOE's recommendation, keeping Cunningham off the ballot
  • March 20: Primary election

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  1. Illinois State Board of Elections, "Candidate detail - John Cunningham," February 2, 2012
  2. Phone communication with Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel for the IL State Board of Elections
  3. Herald News, "Cunningham changes mind, files to get back on 11th District ballot," February 9, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 Daily Herald, "Cunningham to face Biggert in 11th District," February 21, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Elect Jack Cunningham, "Homepage," accessed February 8, 2012
  6. Illinois State Board of Elections, "Candidate List," accessed December 27, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 Daily Herald, "Biggert to be unopposed in primary," February 2, 2012
  8. Chicago Tribune, "Biggert now unopposed in GOP race," February 2, 2012
  9. Herald-News, "Biggert’s GOP challengers removed from primary race," February 2, 2012
  10. Phone communication with Ken Menzel on February 2012
  11. Herald News, "Cunningham changes mind, files to get back on 11th District ballot," February 9, 2012
  12. Kane County Chronicle, "Cunningham must wait for decision on appeal," February 17, 2012
  13. Kane County Chronicle, "Cunningham foes appeal to keep him off ballot in 11th Congressional District," February 24, 2012
  14. Beacon-News, "Cunningham’s ballot status back ‘in limbo’," March 7, 2012
  15. Chicago Tribune, "Cunningham again off 11th Congressional District ballot — for now," March 8, 2012
  16. Chicago Sun-Times, "‘Limbo’ status won’t stop Cunningham," March 8, 2012
  17. Courier News, "Cunningham’s ballot status back ‘in limbo’," March 7, 2012
  18. Chicago Tribune, "Republican again tossed from suburban congressional contest," March 7, 2012
  19. Chicago Sun-Times, "Biggert challenger Cunningham’s congressional bid voided by court," March 15, 2012