JOLIET – Seven candidates lined up outside the Joliet City Clerk's Office at 8 a.m. Monday for an election in which being first on the ballot could be especially important.
Monday was the opening day for local candidates to file petitions to get on the ballot for April 4 elections, when voters will choose the people to oversee their cities, villages, schools, townships, libraries, parks and fire districts.
The race for Joliet City Council has promised to be particularly interesting with 26 people taking out petitions to run in the election for three at-large council positions, which are elected citywide.
How many of those petitions will be brought back by the filing deadline at 5 p.m. Dec. 19 is uncertain.
But Rachel Ventura, who was first in line Monday at City Hall, didn't want to wait to find out.
"I don't want to be in the slew of 30 names," said Ventura, a first-time candidate for elected office. "I want to stand out."
Being first in line did not guarantee Ventura the top spot on the ballot. But it does guarantee her a chance in the Dec. 27 lottery for all candidates in line as of 8:01 a.m.
Word about the lottery must have gotten around. No one beat the sunrise to get to the city clerk's window Monday.
City Clerk Christa Desiderio expressed some surprise not to see anyone waiting at the clerk's window at 7:30 a.m.
"Last time, it was 6:30 a.m., and we had someone sitting out here," Desiderio said.
Others there for the 8 a.m. opening included the three council incumbents: Brooke Hernandez Brewer, Jan Quillman and Michael Turk.
Brewer, however, is running for election for the first time. She was appointed in October to fill the spot vacated when Jim McFarland resigned.
Also there were: Don Dickinson, a member of the Joliet Township High School District 204 board; Nathaniel Romeo, a retired deputy chief with the Will County Sheriff's Office; and Betty Washington, past president of the Joliet chapter of the NAACP.
For those who aren't first on the ballot, being last may be the next best thing.
The last name on the ballot is also seen as advantageous and many candidates over the years have timed last-minute filings so as to get the spot.
So many have done so that the city clerk will also hold a lottery for last spot on the ballot Dec. 27 for all candidates who file between 4 and 5 p.m. on the last day.
This is the first at-large council election that will include a lottery for last spot.
The three at-large positions on the City Council tend to attract a lot of candidates, since they are open to anyone living in Joliet. The council's five district seats are limited to certain sections of the city, and are not up for election in April, nor is the mayor's term.
In the 2009 at-large council race, there were 11 candidates on the ballot. But 23 people took out petitions as most opted not to run, which suggests the 2017 election will be well under 26 names.
Even so, the 26 people who took out petitions were the most anyone at the City Clerk's Office knew of. Desiderio said staff checked the past 10 years and could not find more candidates in any city election in that time.
Brewer said the sheer number of potential candidates makes her "proud to be part of this election. It's got to make history."