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Silverstein Faces Ballot Challenge Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The only state lawmaker publicly accused of sexual harassment is fighting for his political life.

Illinois State Sen. Ira Silverstein is facing a ballot challenge, as opponents raise objections to signatures he's collected on reelection petitions. However, CBS 2's Political Repoter Derrick Blakley says Silverstein is fighting back, calling in defenders to stand up for him.

Silverstein became the poster boy for Springfield sexual harassment after victim rights advocate Denise Rotheimer accused him of pursuing her against her wishes.

As a result, opponents like Ram Villivalam, a former union official, are in the race, tying to take advantage of Silverstein's vulneranility.

"I wanted to make sure our community had someone there that could not be bogged down by controversy and actually focus on the issues that we're facing," Villivalam said.

But some of the voters that were called to defend their signatures strongly objected.

"As far as I can see, there is no reasonable basis to question this signature," voter Eugene Traunfeld said.

No basis, he says, except politics.

"They're looking to keep Mr. Silverstein off the ballot, who's been elected numerous times by his constituents," Traunfeld added.

Silverstein's opponents defend the challenge as a standard part of the process.

"The senator has been there for 18 years; he should know the process. He's had every opportunity to get signatures," Villivalam said.

There are three other Democratic candidates challenging Silverstein, but all of them are being challenged for their signatures, too.

The outcome of Wednesday's hearing will be sent to the Chicago Board of Elections Commission for a final decision.


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