Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's attorneys argued that even if the powerful Southside Democrat had used "dirty tricks" in a 2016 election, it wouldn't be against the law.
Jason Gonzales, who challenged Madigan in the 2016 primary, filed a federal lawsuit claiming Madigan staged two sham candidates – Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez – to divert support from Gonzales' bid.
Madigan's attorneys wrote in a response this week that even if true, the House Speaker didn't do anything wrong.
"Plaintiff, at best, alleges Barbosa and Rodriguez were spoiler candidates who would have served if elected, but whose presence on the ballot made it more difficult for Gonzales to win," Madigan's attorneys wrote in a joint response. "But complaints about campaign strategies, even 'dirty tricks' that successfully undermine candidacies, are not actionable in federal court."
They further claimed that "even if" Gonzales' "allegations were true, defendants’ purported conduct would be protected by the First Amendment."
Madigan's attorneys have previously claimed that former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Republican Party engineered Gonzales's primary bid. Rauner and the GOP have denied those allegations. However, Madigan's attorney argued that Gonzales can't have it both ways.
"Plaintiff’s motion essentially argues that he had the right to run as a Republican plant in the Democratic Primary because state law does not require a candidate to have 'party affiliation, prior voting or party registration' to run in a primary," Madigan's attorneys wrote in the response filed Monday.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Madigan’s political committee, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, the Prisoner Review Board, Shaw Decremer, one of Madigan’s former top political captains, state Rep. Silvana Tabares, D-Chicago, and Graciela Rodriguez, who along with Joe Barbosa were the two alleged “sham candidates.”