By Jean Lotus
Mail-in votes cast before the election in Tuesday's very close 7th District state rep race were tallied by the Cook County Clerk's office today. The latest votes, received by mail Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, increased the lead of Emanuel "Chris" Welch from 15 to 30 votes.
That puts Welch at 4,652 votes (39.08 percent), Hoskins at 4,622 votes (38.82 percent). More mail-in votes may trickle in over the two weeks before the race is officially certified on April 3.
Another pocket of votes may be gained by either side on Monday afternoon when the clerk's office will examine 66 provisional ballots cast in the election to see how many, if any, are valid.
Neither side is conceding and both candidates have hired election attorneys to assist in the legal challenges that may result with vote totals so close.
Rory Hoskins has hired Burt Odelson, the election lawyer who handled the residency challenge for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in last year's election.
Odelson along with Mark Sterk are also the lawyers who sued Welch for libel and defamation in 2007, based on anonymous blog postings that were traced back to Welch. Welch submitted his legal bills, which amounted to around $400,000 to Proviso Township High School District 209, where he serves as school board president. An Illinois State Board of Education Financial Oversight Panel denied the majority of those payments in September 2011. Taxpayers paying Welch's legal bills became a campaign issue in the race.
"Odelson is clearly familiar with our opponent," said Larry Shapiro, Hoskins' campaign manager. The Hoskins camp has also hired election lawyer Jim Nally.
Welch has hired election attorney Richard Means. "We are trying to protect our lead at this point," said Linda Tyson, campaign manager for Welch. "We need to find out where the numbers are."
Princess Dempsey had 1,004 votes, or 8.43 percent and Beyonca Johnson had 1,627 or 13.67 percent.