'This is Chicago-style politics:' Candidates for Milwaukee Co. Exec. respond to ballot allegations

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- It's a fight to stay on the ballot.

Two candidates for Milwaukee County Executive have filed a joint-lawsuit over questions about their signatures for support.

James Sullivan, director of Milwaukee County Child Support Services, and Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy are off the primary ballot thanks to a complaint filed by their rival, Theo Lipscomb.

And while the public waits for a court's decision, both sides are accusing each other of playing dirty.

“This is Chicago-style politics is what it is, finding some minor technicality to get your opponent off the ballot because you know you can’t beat them on issues," Kennedy said about Lipscomb's complaint.

To this comment, Lipscomb responded in kind.

“This is Chicago-style politics, believing that the rules don’t apply to you," he explained. 

And now, there are two very different versions of one, now-muddy story.

Sullivan and Kennedy used a private company to canvass neighborhoods, and help them get enough signatures to get on the April Primary ballot. Kennedy said the vendor has a good reputation. He said neither he nor Sullivan could have known who was collecting signatures through the vendor.

“They have many canvassers; they can collect a lot of signatures," Kennedy said.

Wisconsin law explains that these canvassers can only collect signatures for one candidate in the same election and office.

“It’s not illegal to pay circulators, you just can’t be a serial circulator," Lipscomb replied.

Lipscomb, who is current serving as Milwaukee County Board Executive, said his opponents violated state election law.

“Perhaps this is a signal to everyone that it’s time to return to when family, friends and your neighbors put you on the ballot," he explained.

At a forum on Tuesday, Sullivan disagreed, saying it's the voters who put them both on the ballot and no technicality should take them off.

“More than 5,000 Milwaukee County voters had signed nomination papers so that we could be on the ballot," Sullivan said. “I respect that and I’m going to fight as much as the process allows so that their voices can be heard.”

A court hearing on Kennedy and Sullivan’s joint lawsuit is set to happen no later than Friday.

All the candidates will debate at a forum Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Nicolet High School in Glendale.

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