The filing period for presidential candidates to appear on Illinois’ March 19 primary ballot ended Friday with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie putting in paperwork to join the party’s top three national contenders, former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.
But Christie’s filing indicated the difficulties of putting together a national campaign organization for the GOP field’s most vocal opponent of Trump.
Trump, DeSantis and Haley on Thursday all filed full slates of 51 delegate candidates — three from each of the state’s 17 congressional districts — to go to the Republican National Convention July 15-18 in Milwaukee.
Christie filed paperwork for only 35 delegate candidates. He had none in the 13th and 16th congressional districts, both downstate Trump strongholds — and only one in each of the 15th and 17th districts.
He also had no delegate candidates in the heavily Democratic 2nd District, which covers parts of Chicago and the south suburbs.
Among Christie’s delegate candidates is Jennifer Pritzker, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s cousin. Gov. Pritzker, a member of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign team and a major donor, will play host for the Democratic National Convention Aug. 19-22 in Chicago.
Another cousin of the governor’s, former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, is Biden’s special U.S. representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery.
In 2016, Jennifer Pritzker supported Trump and gave committees backing his campaign more than $250,000.
But she soured on Trump’s 2017 transgender military ban and gave Biden $2,000 in 2020. Like the governor, she is an heir to the Hyatt hotels fortune, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, the founder of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago and Forbes has described her as the world’s only known transgender billionaire.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy did not file for the Illinois ballot. Little-known Republican candidate Ryan Binkley, a businessman and pastor from Dallas, filed on Thursday but did not offer any delegate candidates.
On the Democratic side, Biden’s candidacy petitions were filed a day earlier, as were those for two nominal opponents, self-help author and unsuccessful 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota.
On Friday, event producer Frank Lozada of New York filed for the Democratic nomination but, like Williamson and Phillips, he did not file any delegate candidates.
An objection to Trump’s candidacy has been filed by a group of five voters backed by Free Speech for People, an organization that has pursued efforts nationwide to have Trump disqualified from state ballots under the “insurrection clause” of the 14th Amendment.
Veteran election law attorneys contacted by the Tribune said they expected the State Board of Elections to reject the group’s effort. The board has previously said that its actions on constitutional issues are limited by a past Illinois Supreme Court ruling and that the issue of disqualification is one for the courts or the Illinois legislature.
Some lawyers said privately that they theorized the filing of an objection with the board was a procedural precursor to filing a lawsuit seeking to have Trump removed from the ballot.
The Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine secretary of state have disqualified Trump from the ballot over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and the former president has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Friday, the court agreed to hear arguments on Feb. 8, with a ruling expected quickly given the nation’s election calendar.
Trump spokesman Steve Cheung said the campaign welcomed “a fair hearing at the Supreme Court.”
“The so-called ‘ballot-challenge cases’ are all part of a well-funded effort by left-wing, political activists hell-bent on stopping the lawful reelection of President Trump this November, even if it means disenfranchising voters,” Cheung said in a statement. “We are confident that the fair-minded Supreme Court will unanimously affirm the civil rights of President Trump, and the voting rights of all Americans in a ruling that will squash all of the remaining ballot challenge hoaxes once and for all.”