URBANA — The Urbana electoral board agreed Tuesday that a former Champaign Central basketball star running for Urbana mayor did not meet the requirements to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in February.
The board reached its decision after Verdell Jones III admitted that he filled out the wrong petition forms and hasn’t lived in the city long enough to qualify.
He was planning to run against incumbent Diane Marlin, retiring Alderman Dennis Roberts and Andy Ma in the Democratic primary.
“It’s true, I have not lived in Urbana for the last one year,” Jones said. “The truth is that I’ve lived in Urbana collectively for about 10 years and plan on being here until I’ve done everything I can do to better service people.”
As for seeking petitions on a nonpartisan form for the April general election rather than a primary form, Jones said, “It was an honest error on my part.”
Jones played basketball at Indiana and internationally before returning to Champaign-Urbana three years ago.
He said he initially worked in construction and later restarted a nonprofit aimed at reaching young people through basketball.
When he announced his candidacy, Jones said he was running because “The foundation of our youth’s future is actively crumbling due to our community’s current condition. … I am running as an ally to those who put our youth and community’s well-being first.”
The objection was brought by Michael Langendorf, who was represented Tuesday by Chicago attorney Abe Matthew.
Each of the three electoral board members — Aldermen Maryalice Wu and Bill Colbrook and city Clerk Phyllis Clark — agreed that Jones should be removed from the primary ballot and will vote on a written order today.
Clark agreed that Jones did not meet the requirements, even though she had signed his candidate petition.
“I did sign it because I thought that he would be a good candidate,” she said. “I’m just really sad that Mr. Jones didn’t meet that requirement.”
Before they made their decision, Jones said that if his petitions were denied, the board should “reject at least the petty objection” to Meghan McDonald’s petitions to represent Ward 5.
The board ended up agreeing to deny the objection from Wayne Williams and allow McDonald to run in the Democratic primary against former county coroner candidate Chaundra Bishop.
In his objection, Williams said McDonald should be taken off the ballot because she didn’t include which ward she was running for on each page of her petitions.
Matthew, who also represented Williams, argued that not including the ward could confuse signers of the petition, pointing to three who signed the petitions who apparently weren’t in Ward 5.
But Wu said she understood why the petition form could be confusing to the candidate, since it doesn’t directly say that the ward should be specified.
And since each ward only has one representative, she was in favor of allowing McDonald to run.
“She circulated those petitions in her neighborhood, and they know her,” Clark said in favor of denying the objection.