John Penney also seeks limited recount after falling short in County Board race

ROCKFORD — David Gill has petitioned for a discovery recount in Rockford and Winnebago County after narrowly losing the March 17 Republican primary contest for state's attorney to J. Hanley.

Hanley defeated Gill by 15 votes, according to certified election results from the Rockford Board of Elections and Winnebago County Clerk. Hanley received 8,390 votes to Gill’s 8,375 votes.

“The election results are so close,” Gill said. “I was the leader as of the end of election night. And as of the end of the mail-in ballot count, my opponent was the leader by 15 votes. It seems the responsible thing to do is to just inquire: Were all votes counted? Were all votes counted properly?”

In a discovery recount, a candidate can pick up to 25 percent of the precincts where votes were cast to be recounted at a cost of $10 a precinct.

Gill would not automatically win if he were to gain 16 or more votes in the discovery recount, but doing so would allow him to go to court to seek a full recount of the primary results.

"All the votes have been counted and I won," Hanley said Friday in a written statement. "I am the Republican candidate for Winnebago County state’s attorney. It is official.

"Despite these facts, my former opponent is unwilling to accept defeat. He has requested a 'discovery recount.' A process aimed at preparing for the litigation of the election results. Just what the county needs — another lawsuit. Just because you 'can' do something doesn’t mean you should."

Typically, representatives from each party attend the recount on each candidate's behalf, Hanley said. However, in light of social distancing guidelines in effect amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanley said he will not ask any of his campaign volunteers to be present at the recount. "Further, because I am an 'essential employee' working for Rock River Water Reclamation District to ensure the continued health of our employees and the public, I will not risk infection by attending the recount."

John Penney, who lost the Republican nomination in County Board District 11 by just two votes to Kevin McCarthy, also is seeking a discovery recount.

Discovery recounts for Gill and Penney have yet to be scheduled. Rockford attorney John Nelson, who is representing Penney, said his client is prepared for a delay, given that both the city and county election offices remain closed to the public in an attempt to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We are prepared to conduct the discovery recount when the election authorities can properly do this, even though we want the matter resolved as soon as we can,” Nelson said. “We feel that with a two-vote deficit, we're going to win this election.”

McCarthy had 640 votes, Penney 638 and incumbent Dave Fiduccia 94 in the primary contest.

"I'm confident that the results will remain the same," McCarthy said.

Isaac Guerrero: iguerrero@rrstar.com; @isaac_rrs