This Candidate Is A `Cut The Taxes' Above The Rest

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This Candidate Is A `Cut The Taxes' Above The Rest October 03, 1995|By Eric Zorn. Chicago Tribune • • The only way Oak Park and River Forest will ever settle this season's silliest political fight is through surveillance. A listening device planted in a napkin ring would, for instance, reveal once and for all whether Les Golden's girlfriend really calls him "Cut the Taxes" at times when other women would say "honey" or "sweetheart." A tap on his phone line would show if friends greet him with a hearty, "Yo, Cut the Taxes, how 'bout them Bears?" or something along those lines. And a snoop lurking on his porch could tell us how much of his mail actually is addressed to Les "Cut the Taxes" Golden.

But barring such wholesale violations of the 4th Amendment, we will be stuck contrasting Golden's contention that he is commonly known by a nickname that sounds like a slogan on a bumper sticker and the recent conclusion of a local electoral board that his calling himself "Cut the Taxes" is little more than a political stunt.

Illinois election law allows candidates to use nicknames by which they are "commonly known," thus anticipating all the Woodys and Skips and Jimmys and Barbs out there, as well as those with more unusual but still genuine monikers as Cook County Commissioner Jerry "Iceman" Butler and former aldermanic candidate Wallace "Gator" Bradley.

It would be an unusual man who really went by the name "Cut the Taxes," but Golden, 45, of Oak Park, is an unusual man. He is an actor and educational software developer with a Ph.D. in astronomy; he is a trumpet player, writer and physics professor who devotes much of his free time to taxpayers rights issues.

He became active in community politics in the mid-1980s to push his idea that Oak Park's property taxes were harming the town. "I was a one-issue guy," he said. "Other people would talk about parking and diversity and things like that. One meeting I got up and said, `Cutting taxes is the only issue!' and I left. My friends started joking about it."

He became "Less Taxes" Golden or Les "Cut the Taxes" Golden, though he preferred the latter. He used that ballot name without difficulty in his unsuccessful primary run for the Illinois House in 1992 and thereby assured himself a spot alongside Elias "Non-incumbent" Zenkich, Robert "Save-A-Baby" Ellis and Lar "America First" Daly in the local political anecdote files. "Candidates generally get broad latitude," said state Board of Elections spokesman Dan White. "It'd be pretty hard to prove that a ballot nickname really isn't the person's nickname."

But that's just what a challenger did recently in front of the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 electoral board. Golden had submitted nominating petitions for November's school trustee election under Les "Cut the Taxes" Golden, and another one of the candidates filed a formal objection claiming it "is neither his real name nor a nickname by which he is commonly known; it is an electioneering slogan and is illegal."

On a recent Thursday night, the three-member election board held a formal hearing at which they heard six of Golden's associates testify that they know him as "Cut the Taxes," and it saw Golden produce news releases, award certificates, mail and, from his life in the theater, a playbill, all of which used the alleged nickname.

But the board tossed him off the ballot anyway, leaving nine candidates for three open seats on the volunteer school board. The ruling noted that "Cut the Taxes" does not appear on Golden's driver's license or other legal documents (as though most nicknames do) and that he uses it mainly to bolster his political identity: "It is a name he assumes or uses in a political context only," said the ruling, which raised the specter of candidates adopting such ballot names as "Union Yes" and "Stop Welfare Cheats."

This angered Golden and his girlfriend of one year, Lucy Evans, who insisted that she does sweetly call him "Cut the Taxes" and, indeed, knew him only as that for the first month she knew him.

This is strange, I would submit. But sometimes voters like strange, and for an election board to attempt to deny them this choice is a worse offense to democracy than the appearance of an unconventional nickname on a nominating petition. The best shot now for Cut, as I call him, seems to be a write-in campaign, which he is pursuing. If anyone tries something wise like writing in simply, "Les Golden," he'll probably forgive them.