CHICAGO (CBS) -- Supporters of mayoral challenger Willie Wilson have called on the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to uphold his candidacy, and allow him on the February ballot, in the face of an ongoing challenge from the Emanuel campaign.
"Let's do the right thing. Let everybody on the ballot, and may the best man win," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
Hatch and other Wilson supporters said Mayor Rahm Emanuel's attempt to have Wilson tossed off the ballot, by challenging the validity of his nominating petitions, is part of a calculated strategy.
"The longer time we spend down here in these hearing processes, the less time that he has to go out and make a case to the people," Hatch said.
Hatch said city election officials should throw out Emanuel's challenge to most of the 47,000 signatures on Wilson's nominating petitions.
Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, said he doubts there's anything wrong with most of those signatures, and to knock Wilson off the ballot would be to disenfranchise a large part of the African-American community.
"When we look at the condition of the neighborhoods on the South and West Side of the city, it is important that we have an advocate; at least a person on the ballot that will make the case for us," Acree said.
Hatch said, if anyone should be opposed to such tactics, it should be Emanuel, who faced a challenge to his residency in 2011.
"Let's stop the political games, and get on, and let the debate begin," Hatch said.
Wilson's supporters said voters should be given more options in the February election, not fewer.
Emanuel's campaign has acknowledged it supports challenges to the signatures on Wilson's nominating petitions, but the mayor has denied he's trying to disenfranchise anyone.
"There's no merit to that, and we all have a responsibility. I was challenged. Other people have, and we're doing what's appropriate by the standards for the Board of Elections," he said earlier this month.
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