Anonymous mailers attack D209 candidates, Forest Park village commissioner

By IGOR STUDENKOV | Staff reporter

Forest Park Village Council commissioners put out a joint statement denouncing a negative campaign mailer that landed in mailboxes across Forest Park on March 31 and April 1.

The mailer attacked Commissioner Maria Maxham, who is facing her first election after being appointed in July 2021, Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education incumbent Teresa Kelly and challengers that are part of Proviso United candidate slate.

In response, all six village commissioner candidates released a joint statement denouncing all forms of negative campaigning. The Village Free Press also reached out to other District 209 candidates, but they did not immediately respond.

There are three incumbents running for the village council – Maxham, Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogd — and three challengers – Joe Landgrebe, Michelle Melin-Rogovin and Ryan Russ.

While there are no formal slates in this race, Maxham, Melin-Rogovin and Landgrebe have supported each other, attending each other’s fundraisers.

The District 209 election is more complex, with three candidate slates competing for three spots on the board. Sandra Joseph-Hixson, Jenny Barbahen and David Ocampo are running as the Proviso 209 United slate, which has also been referring to themselves as HBO (after the candidates’ surnames).

Incumbent Claudia Medina and new candidate Jon Kubricht are running as the Proviso Excels slate. Kelly and new candidates Jayda James and Maribel Aguirre are running as the D209 Together slate.

The front of the mailer states that Maxham and “United Hobo’s” [sic] “can’t stowaway on [Supt.] Dr. [James] Henderson’s Northbound train to greatness anymore.”

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It shows an edited photo of Maxham holding a palm card for the 2019 Proviso Together slate, with images of the candidates replaced by images of Kelly and current board President Della Patterson and board member Nathan Wagner.

Proviso Together is no longer a political committee. However, on March 26 eight former members of Proviso Together endorsed the Proviso United slate.

The mailer states that “Maxham and her hitchhikers are deplorable and they will further destroy Forest Park if left in power.”

Maxham doesn’t support any of the candidates in the edited image, and no one on the HBO slate has served on the D209 Board of Education before. The mailer urges voters to vote for four candidates — Medina, James, Kubricht and Maribel Aguirre – although there are only three seats up for election.

In addition, the mailer endorses Voogd, Russ, Nero and Landgrebe for the Forest Park commissioner race.

The back of the emailer features a screenshot from a Feb. 15, 2022 video Medina recorded showing Kelly give her a middle finger. At the time, Kelly denied that she intentionally made an obscene gesture.

The mailer also accused Maxham and unnamed village staff members of giving Voogd an obscene nickname, accused her of being racist, and urged voters to “vote them out.”

No one has taken responsibility for the mailer. Unlike typical campaign mailers, which are mailed en masse to all addresses within a specific voting district or a municipality, this one was hand-stamped and mailed to specific addresses within Forest Park.

In a joint statement, all six village council candidates denounced the mailer.

“We have all led positive campaigns and have supported each other’s efforts in our community,” it stated. “We wholeheartedly denounce all negative campaigning, including anonymous mailers. No matter the outcome of this election, we all believe in each candidate’s commitment to Forest Park.”

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