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As anyone who knows anything about the arcane world of election law will tell you, Michael Kasper is one of Michael Madigan's favorite weapons.
When the house speaker and state Democratic chieftain wants to bounce some nettlesome challenger from the ballot, generally to protect the incumbency of a legislative loyalist, he tends to bring in Kasper, who knows the intricacies of the election law like the back of his hand.
So what in the world is Kasper doing helping independent 25th Ward aldermanic challenger Cuahutemoc Morfin in his ongoing election challenge against incumbent alderman and Daley stalwart Danny Solis?
"I don't know the answer to that question," says Richard Means, Morfin's lawyer. "I can tell you this--I got a call from Kasper and he wants to help."
Did you fall off your chair?
"Almost," Means said with a laugh.
Kasper and Madigan spokesman Steve Brown did not return calls for comment, but a very good source tells me that Madigan did indeed ask Kasper to help Means with the case.
By bringing in Kasper to fight against Solis, the inscrutable Madigan is sending a message, though just what it is is difficult to say. Perhaps he wants to let Solis's chief ally, Mayor Daley, know that even with the mayor's 71 percent election-day mandate, there's still another Democratic big shot in town.
Meanwhile, Morfin's challenge suffered a blow yesterday. Means had petitioned the election board to release the number of early and absentee votes for Ambrosio Medrano, who was stricken from the ballot just a few days before the election. Solis squeaked by with just 51.42 percent of the vote, and if 200 votes for Medrano were included in the tally, the alderman would be bumped below 50 percent of the total vote and forced into a possible runoff with Morfin, who finished second.
Yesterday the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners granted Means's request. The result: 178 early or absentee votes cast for Medrano. Close but no cigar.
Means hasn't given up. He plans to make another appearance before the election board tomorrow, asking for the release of 24 write-in votes and any provisional ballots that have yet to be tallied.
I wouldn't expect many write-in votes for a candidate listed on the ballot. But maybe Kasper has a trick or two up his sleeve.