May 2, 2018


In the 39 countywide and subcircuit judicial contests on the March 20 Democratic primary ballot, women mostly prevailed over men. Gender matters these days.

In the 22 contests where a woman faced a man, the woman prevailed in 14. It would have been more except that there were contests in which several women split the vote when they ran against a single man. A woman was nominated for 22 of the 39 Democratic vacancies, with eight races either being unopposed or woman versus woman.

For the ten countywide vacancies, a woman won four of seven man/woman contests, and five of the ten nominations. Surprisingly, the Democrats' slated candidates won eight of ten. Four of the women who ran had Irish surnames, with two beating slated and appointed incumbents, and just one losing. And black candidates lost five of the six contests in which they ran. Black ward and township committeemen exerted themselves for the black judicial slate, which included slated appointees Preston Jones Jr. and Oran Whiting, along with Mable Taylor, Lori Roper and Keith Spence. Only Jones won. The only slated Jewish candidate, Jonathan Clark Green, lost to an Irish-surnamed woman.

In local subcircuits, of which there are 15 scattered throughout Cook County, with 29 vacancies to be filled, a woman faced a man in 15 of those contests, and the woman won 10. Republicans fielded a candidate in only five subcircuit contests, of which four in the far northwest suburbs are winnable, and two nominees are women.

Such factors as gender, race, ballot position, slating and Irish surnames are far more determinative of success than actual qualifications. Candidates cannot campaign on issues, as that violates judicial canons. The only viable credential is ratings from the various bar associations, the most influential being the Chicago Bar Association. There there are dozens of other ad hoc bar associations representing numerous other demographics, including black, female, LGBTQ, Hispanic, Jewish and suburban lawyers. They all interview contenders and issue "ratings": WQ (Well-Qualified), Q (Qualified), NQ (Not Qualified), or NR (Not Recommended). Some newspapers make endorsements based on these ratings and some don't. Unless a rating chart is published in a newspaper, or a voter goes to a bar Web site, they know nothing of the qualifications of their future judges. In a countywide race, direct mail is too expensive and ineffectual.

To Ed Burke and the county Democrats' credit, no judicial candidate is slated unless he or she has a WQ or a Q rating from every credible bar association. The cost to have countywide slating is $40,000, for which Democratic committeemen get the necessary 15,000 to 20,000 nominating petition signatures, plus about 1.2 million "sample ballots" printed and disseminated among the 80 ward and township Democratic organizations, with the aspirant's picture and brief bio, on which the word "ENDORSED" is prominently displayed.

It should be noted that there are 3,073,887 registered voters in Cook County, of which 1,494,199 are in Chicago and 1,549,688 in the suburbs. On March 20, 795,421 voted in the Democratic primary, with roughly 625,000 votes per judicial race. The highest slated vote in a contested race was Cecilia Horan (479,188 out of 611,963) for the Hartigan vacancy, and the lowest slated vote was Green (160,774 out of 633,907) for the Clay vacancy. The lowest slated winning vote was Tom Sam Sianis (221,173 out of 616,309) for the Dooling vacancy. (Note that the vacancy is named after the judge who has retired.) The average vote for the ten slated candidates was 356,721, and the average vote per vacancy was about 610,000, which means that about 19 percent of the county's electorate picked ten judges, all Democrats, all of whom are unopposed in November. Justice, as they say, may be blind, but voters, as they should say, don't really care who sits on the bench.

COUNTYWIDE: The most closely watched contest in my opinion was for the Dooling vacancy, where the slated Sianis, scion of the Billy Goat restaurant family and a top aide to Secretary of State Jesse White, won 221,173-200,187-194,949 over, respectively, Corri Diane Fetman and Tim Leeming. Fetman is a high-profile divorce attorney who was once a Playboy model, and Leeming, a supervising assistant state's attorney and husband of a sitting judge. Sianis spent $204,925, to Fetman's $50,252 and Leeming's $48,313, and was a presence at Democratic functions and eked out a 35.9 percent win. This was an oddity, as normally two men insure the win of a woman.

The demise of Whiting for the Brewer vacancy contrasts starkly to the victory of Jones for the Flanagan vacancy. Whiting lost to Kathryn Maloney Vahey 277,361-224,272, with 133,546 for John Maher, getting 35.3 percent. "He (Whiting) ran an inept campaign," said consultant Frank Calabrese, who specializes in judicial races. "He alienated all the committeemen." Jones defeated Amanda Moira Pillsbury and Keely Patricia Hillison, both with identifiably Irish names, and Ioana Salajanu. Against three women, Jones won 293,194-160,770-98,116-67,982, getting 47.3 percent, and 68,922 more votes than Whiting. The vote of the three women amounted to 326,868. Had Jones faced just one woman, he would have likely lost.

For the Clay vacancy, the slated Green really tanked, losing to Kathaleen Theresa Lanahan by 76,060 votes, getting 25.4 percent. The vote was 236,834-160,774-123,384-107,915, with Mike O'Malley and Roper bringing up the rear. The two men received a combined 284,158 votes, the two women a combined 344,749. For the Hartigan vacancy, the appointed and slated Cecelia Horan, former chairwoman of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, received 78.3 percent, burying Spence, a defense attorney. For the McGinnis vacancy, appointed and slated Peter Gonzalez pulled off a stunner, getting 50.8 percent and beating Brian Sexton and Bradley Trowbridge. Had an Irish-surnamed woman filed, Gonzalez would be an ex-judge. For the Jordan vacancy, that is exactly what happened. Appointed/slated Clare Quish faced Jerry Barrido (Hispanic) and Patrick Dwanka John (black), getting 69.8 percent.

The white man on the slate was Jack Hagerty for the Rooney vacancy, and he beat Taylor, a woman, 355,710-257,345, getting 58 percent. Had another man run, or had he faced an Irish-surnamed woman, Hagerty would have gone down.

6TH SUBCIRCUIT: There may be a "Big Bang" theory, but on March 20 in this 70 percent Hispanic district there was a "Big Thud." Three judgeships were on the ballot - the Chevere, Lopez Ceparo and Cooke vacancies - and Kent Delgado and Stephanie Miller, both appointed judges, and Charlie Beach, a DUI defense attorney, respectively, were slated. And then were unslated. The district includes Logan Square and the Puerto Rican areas to the north and west and there is a substantial white population in West Humboldt Park. Democratic committeemen - of which Proco Joe Moreno (1st), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Joe Berrios (31st) and Luis Arroyo (36th) are the most powerful - decided that they would back whomever they wanted. The embarrassing result was that Miller and Beach both lost.

For the Chevere vacancy, Moreno backed Delgado and Berrios and Maldonado backed David Herrera; also running was Sean Kelly. Delgado won 21,025-11,474-5,937. For the Lopez Ceparo vacancy, Berrios and retired judge Gloria Chevere backed Linda Perez, who beat Miller 20,560-18,297. And for the Cooke vacancy, Arroyo backed Ed Underhill against Beach and Andrea Webber, who had the backing of no committeeman. Webber won 18,667-12,025-7,802, with Underhill last. Women beat men in those contests.

8TH SUBCIRCUIT: Undeniably the most liberal area of Chicago, stretching from the south Loop along the Lakefront to the 40th and 47th wards, men nevertheless won two of three vacancies. For the Liu Vacancy, with one woman, Athena Farmakis, facing three men, Lindsay Huge, appointed Judge Mike Forti, and Cyrus Hosseini, the result was unexpected. Huge, with his androgynous name, finished first with 38.2 percent. For the Fabri Vacancy, James "Jamie" Shapiro, who mailed heavily, finished first with 45.7 percent, beating two men and two women. For the Pethers vacancy, the slated Judge Myron Mackoff, son of a retired judge, got himself "clouted" by Jeanne Marie Wrenn, the state's attorney's Springfield lobbyist and sister of Mike Madigan's former chief-of-staff. She was backed by aldermen Brendan Reilly, Pat O'Connor and Brian Hopkins, and got 43.8 percent, beating two men.

10TH SUBCIRCUIT: Women won both contests in this Northwest Side/Park Ridge-Des Plaines district. For the Suriano Vacancy, the slated Colleen Daly received 23,557 votes, or 51.1 percent, beating Judge Gerald Cleary, Noreen Connolly, Jill Quinn - who were shills put up by Cleary - and Tom Gabryszewski. Daly campaigned visibly and mailed heavily. For the Burke vacancy, slated Judge Stephanie Saltouros, Alderman John Arena's choice, got 25,415 votes, or 57.1 percent, easily defeating Lorraine Murphy and Gwyn Ward Brown.

11TH SUBCIRCUIT: In this West Side/Oak Park-based district, the result wasn't even close. The slated Joanne Rosado beat Scott Frankel 28,507-12,710, or 69.1 percent.