URBANA — Local cybersecurity expert John Bambenek has filed a declaration of intent to run as a Republican write-in candidate for Champaign County treasurer in the March 17 primary, but it will be up to the court to decide if a write-in race will appear on the ballot.
Bambenek, 42, of Champaign filed his declaration Wednesday, but it’s already been rejected by County Clerk Aaron Ammons based on state election law.
“While we appreciate your desire to participate in the electoral process, I can-not accept your filing,” Ammons said in his response. “I’m drawing from the Election Code 10ILCS 5/7-11.1 to make this decision. To be clear, the resignation of the Champaign County treasurer after Dec. 2, 2019, means the treasurer’s office will not appear on the 2020 general primary ballot.”
Had Democratic county Treasurer Laurel Prussing resigned before the candidate filing period ended Dec. 2, there could have been a race included on the primary ballot, according to Barbara Mann, chief of the civil division in the state’s attorney’s office.
Bambenek said he was aware of the law. But he filed anyway, with plans to seek a judicial review based on his contention that a section of the state election code is unconstitutional.
If he files a legal challenge and prevails, Bambenek would be running in the primary to fill the unexpired four-year term of Prussing, whose resignation takes effect Jan. 31.
A plan to replace Prussing has already been spelled out by county officials.
County Board Chairman Giraldo Rosales plans to appoint a Democrat to take over for Prussing temporarily, and after the primary, both parties will slate their own candidates to run in the Nov. 3 general election to fill the balance of Prussing’s term.
A former Unit 4 school board member and state senate candidate, the owner of Champaign-based Bambenek Consulting said he believes he’d need 185 write-in votes in the primary to advance to the general election in November as the Republican candidate.
Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the deadline for filing a declaration of intent to run as a write-in candidate in the primaries was Thursday. But while Bambenek was within that deadline, the timing of Prussing’s resignation would preclude him from being a write-in candidate.
The state election code also states that an appointee from the same party as the official who is resigning will serve the rest of the unexpired term, unless more than 28 months remain in the term.
“If more than 28 months remain in the term, the appointment shall be until the next general election, at which time the vacated office shall be filled by election for the remainder of the term,” the law states.
Bambenek said he dislikes the mechanism in the state election code that leaves “party insiders” in control over the process and who can run to fill the rest of an unexpired term.
And while he’s running to win, he said, “if the only thing that happens is I strike down a feature of the law, I’m happy.”
Bambenek recently called on the county board to order a forensic audit of the treasurer’s office in the wake of Prussing’s resignation and bookkeeping issues in that office that have come to light.
While he’s in the cybersecurity business, Bambenek contended that he’s qualified to serve as county treasurer because he’s also an expert on financial crimes and finance.
He also believes that while 2018 was a bad election year for Republicans, this election year will be different.
“It still is possible for Republicans to win offices here,” Bambenek said.