After polls close Tuesday, voters in Lake, McHenry, Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties are one step closer to choosing the next Illinois Supreme Court judge. Four Republicans and three Democrats asked for their party’s nomination for a seat on the state’s highest court.
The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face each other in November for the 2nd seat of the judicial district previously held by former Chicago Bears kicker Bob Thomas, a Republican judge who spent nearly two decades on the Supreme Court of the United States. state sat.
The Second District has consistently elected Republican candidates since the 1960s, but the Democrat-controlled Illinois legislature recently redrawn the electoral map. Northwestern voters were moved from the Second District to the sprawling Fourth District, which now stretches from Jo Daviess County to Jersey County, just north of St. Louis.
Lake, McHenry, DeKalb, Kane, and Kendall counties remain in the second district, while DuPage County was moved to the third district.
The Republican primary was a four-way race between an appellate judge, two circuit judges and a former Lake County sheriff.
Second District Judge Susan Hutchinson and Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes received “highly recommended” ratings from the Illinois State Bar Association. John Noverini, a Kane County circuit judge, and former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran were rated ‘not recommended’. Noverini received the rating automatically after refusing to participate in the bar group evaluation.
Citadel CEO Ken Griffin donated $6.25 million this year to Citizens for Judicial Fairness, a conservative independent spending committee that spent more than $170,000 on TV ads in support of Shanes. The group spent about $50,000 to oppose Curran’s bid for the party nomination. The three-year Lake County sheriff unsuccessfully ran against Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in 2020, scoring nearly 40% of the vote statewide.
Of the three contenders in the Democratic primary, only Lake County Associate Judge Elizabeth “Liz” Rochford was rated “highly recommended” by the Illinois State Bar Association. The group rated Kane County Circuit Judge Renè Cruz as “recommended” and incumbent Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering “not recommended”.
Rochford and Rotering both have ties to powerful Democrats in the state. Allies of former Illinois chairman Michael Madigan helped Rotering rally petitions in its failed 2018 bid for the Illinois attorney general, and Rochford has donated money to Chicago Ald over the years. Edward Burke, now under federal indictment. Rochford’s campaign committee has raised way too much money for its Democratic rivals.
The race had almost three candidates less. Rotering, Hutchinson and Curran were temporarily kicked out of the vote over a sniff of the number of signatures needed to run in the newly redrawn district. A Cook County Circuit Court judge reinstated all three candidates last month.
Illinois Supreme Court judges often, but not always, have bench experience before going to the state’s highest court. Each of the current seven members of the court has served at the circuit or court of appeal level.
In the state’s 3rd Judicial District, Michael J. Burke and Mary Kay O’Brien each faced undisputed primary. The Democratic nominee, O’Brien, is an appellate judge in the Third District and was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1996 to 2003, when she was appointed to the appellate court.
Burke, the Republican nominee, sits on the Illinois Supreme Court after the court appointed him to fill the vacant second district seat Thomas left behind. But the legislative redistricting shifted his home seat, so he’s now running to fill the Third District vacancy left by former Judge Thomas Kilbride’s failed 2020 retention bid.
In 2020, Citizens for Judicial Fairness spent millions trying to dethrone Kilbride as he sought the 60% “yes” votes needed to maintain his seat on the bench. The group unfavorably linked him to Madigan. The court appointed Robert L. Carter, of Ottawa, to fill the Kilbride seat in 2020, but Carter said at the time that he would not run in this election.
If Republicans win both Supreme Court races in November, the court would have a Republican majority for the first time in decades.
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