A Chicago activist is the latest to announce a run for mayor ahead of the citywide election in February, but she may not be eligible for the ballot.
WBEZ found Amara Enyia racked up $12,790 in fines owed to the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) for failing to file quarterly campaign reports. Any candidate who owes money to ISBE is ineligible for the ballot.
That amount may actually be higher, explained Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the ISBE, because Enyia could also be assessed a separate fine for each quarterly report filed late.
“If she doesn’t get this straightened out (which her lawyer says she will) she could never be a candidate for any office in Illinois,” Dietrich wrote in an email to WBEZ.
In Illinois, the state election board oversees all fundraising, while local city and county boards certify which names appear on the ballot. Before certification, the state will send out a forfeiture list to the local election boards notifying them of which candidates have outstanding fines.
Enyia, who announced her intention to run for mayor again this week, said she’s working to address the issue with her attorney.
“We found out quite late about the fines that were on the account,” she explained. “We have an attorney on retainer that is working with the state board to resolve that. And, so that’s an issue we’ve already identified [and are] taking care of.”
Enyia said it would be “ideal” to get the fines waived entirely. “But I am confident that they will come out with a very good resolution for us,” she said.
Enyia’s short lived 2015 campaign
Enyia created Friends of Amara Enyia in 2014 to run for mayor in the 2015 election cycle. It was a short-lived campaign. Enyia was the first candidate to drop out of the race due to a ballot challenge.
Listen: Enyia explains why she dropped out on WBEZ’s Afternoon Shift
In Illinois, a candidate who gathers the required number of signatures to get on the ballot may later be put in the difficult position of having to defend those signatures. Fighting those objections requires an election attorney.
That cycle, Enyia only brought in $15,861.
But when Enyia dropped out of the race, she never closed out her campaign committee and stopped filing quarterly campaign reports after July 2015.
All active campaigns filed with the state election board are required to file quarterly reports, even if they don’t bring in or spend any money.
Looking back, Enyia called it one of many “lessons learned,” as a first-time candidate in Illinois.
“This is one of those things that we had to be vigilant about, keeping up with what is happening even when the campaign was over,” Enyia told WBEZ. “So, for our part, it’s about learning that lesson that once the campaign is done, that there is still some due diligence to do at the back end.”
On Aug. 1, 2017, the director of the Campaign Disclosure Division for ISBE, Tom Newman, sent a letter to Enyia asking if the campaign was still active. He gave her 30 days to respond, but she never did. So on Oct. 12, 2017, Newman sent a follow-up letter terminating the campaign committee.
Enyia said she never received those letters which were sent to two separate addresses associated with her campaign fund. She hasn’t reported receiving any contributions this cycle.
Claudia Morell covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @claudiamorell.