Whitney’s name recognition fight gets tougher with whitewashing

15 Oct

By Jennifer Schanz

Just when the Illinois Green Party figured it had been ostracized enough, its gubernatorial candidate, Rich Whitney, gets bumped from the ballot by his good friend Rich ‘Whitey.’

Hundreds of early voting ballots showed the gubernatorial candidates name as ‘Rich Whitey,’ an error Brandon Punke, campaign communications director, says, could be detrimental.

The incorrect spelling of Whitney’s name has turned up in 23 Chicago wards, half of them with African American majorities, begging the question of just how accidental the spelling was in the first place.

Prior to the final ward count, Punke could not say for certain the misspelling was in response to a smear campaign, but he didn’t rule it out. “If this occurred only in minority neighborhoods, then I don’t think you can look at it in any way aside from being intentional,” he said.

In response to the misspelling, the Illinois Green Party suggested advertising at the polls that ‘Whitey’ was actually Whitney, but Punke says election officials dubbed that as electioneering, “What really bugs me is that the initial report from the board of election is that they can’t even update the touch screen, which is electronic… that’s what they’re saying.”

Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal said the misspelling was by no means intentional, and places blame on Dominion, saying the private contractor is responsible for the “proof-reading mistake.”

Whitney isn’t satisfied. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, the candidate expressed suspicion and concern over how the error will affect the polls.

“I don’t want to be identified as ‘Whitey.’ If this is happening in primarily African-American wards, that’s an even bigger concern,” he said. “I don’t know if this is machine politics at play or why this happened.”

It’s doubtful that Whitney imagined the climax of his gubernatorial campaign playing out to distant cheers of “Whitey! Whitey! Whitey!” but in a presence of a mysterious missing N, the candidate who has gotten used to having to fight for name recognition will have to fight even harder.

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