By Jean Lotus
Emanuel "Chris" Welch was 33 votes ahead of Rory Hoskins after provisional ballots were counted at the Cook County Clerk's Office Tuesday in the nose-to-nose 7th District Illinois state representative race.
Most recent totals released by the county Tuesday morning were Welch at 4,658 and Hoskins with 4,625 votes. Beyonca Johnson won 1,629 votes and Princess Dempsey tallied 1,005.
Mail ballot stragglers may trickle in until April 3 and the race will be certified April 10.
Hoskins and his team attended the examination of provisional ballots at the Clerk's office, 69 E. Washington, Monday. Welch sent campaign representatives because his wife, Shawnte was at the hospital in labor with the couple's first child.
Neither side is conceding the race 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 Hoskins' campaign manager, Larry Shapiro.
The Hoskins camp has also hired election lawyer Jim Nally.
Meanwhile, Welch has hired election attorney Richard Means.
Forest Parkers voted three-to-one for Hoskins. Before mail-in and provisional votes were counted, the county reported that Hoskins received 1,023 Forest Park votes with 349 votes cast for Welch.