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Naperville mayoral candidate survives court challenge; city council candidate booted from ballot

A DuPage County judge has ruled that Naperville mayoral candidate Tiffany Stephens can stay on the April ballot. But the judge removed city council candidate Derek McDaniel.

Naperville resident Arian Ahmadpour filed objections to Stephens’ and McDaniel’s candidacies. In court filings, Ahmadpour’s attorney argued that Stephens did not meet a residency requirement and that McDaniel did not number the pages of his petitions as required by law.

Though the Naperville electoral board voted 2-1 last month to reject the objection to McDaniel’s petitions, DuPage County Judge Craig Belford on Friday reversed the panel’s finding and ruled McDaniel could not remain on the ballot because of the clerical errors in his petitions.

“I let the people in Naperville down for not numbering my pages, and that’s my fault,” said McDaniel, a first-time candidate. “What I do really feel bad about is voter choice. … A simple error such as this is going to limit voter choice, and that’s really unfortunate for the citizens of Naperville.”

McDaniel said he was uncertain if he would appeal the judge’s ruling. But he did say he intends to remain involved in his community. He serves on the city’s planning and zoning commission and is a member of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce.

In Stephens’ case, Belford ruled the Naperville electoral board acted properly in dismissing the objection to her petitions. She will be allowed to remain on the ballot.

“I am so humbled and grateful for the court’s decision,” Stephens said. “This was a huge victory for us and for Naperville.

“I hope my story will inspire people to go out and politically serve its communities for the better good,” she added.

Ross Secler, an attorney representing Ahmadpour, said he did not anticipate appealing Belford’s ruling.

In his ruling, Belford said his decision was not based on whether Stephens lived in Naperville for the required one year to run for municipal office. Rather, his decision was based on whether the electoral board acted properly in granting a directed finding rejecting Ahmadpour’s objection.

Stephens acknowledged using an Aurora mailing address in recent years. But she testified at the electoral board hearing that she never lived there and instead lived with family and friends in Naperville during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also stayed in the office of her nonprofit organization in Naperville.

Stephens signed a contract to purchase a home in Naperville in September 2021, but supply chain issues prevented her from closing on the home until June 2022, according to her attorney.

Stephens joins Naperville Councilman Benny White and liquor commission member Scott Wehrli in a bid to replace Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, who is not seeking reelection.

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