June 10, 2020


Here are some words of wisdom for would-be politicians and, in the context of this column, for would-be judges:

An image once created cannot easily (if ever) be uncreated or re-created. A reputation once established cannot be easily (if ever) re-established. And political enemies last forever. The accuracy of this was demonstrated to Ira Silverstein and John Garrido on March 17 when both lost their bids to win a Democratic judgeship nomination in the 9th and 10th subcircuits, respectively (see chart).

Silverstein is a lawyer from the West Rogers Park 50th Ward and he served in the Illinois Senate for 20 years from 1998 to 2018. He got 19.8 percent in his 2020 primary against three opponents.

Garrido is a Chicago police lieutenant who twice ran for 45th Ward alderman against John Arena, losing by 30 votes in 2011 in a runoff and by 1,225 votes in 2015 in another runoff. He got 30.1 percent in his 2020 primary against two opponents.

Silverstein's image and reputation was irreparably trashed during 2017-18 when he ran afoul of #MeToo by sending a deluge of messages at all hours to a female lobbyist who was pushing legislation in his committee. An ethics complaint ensued and the legislative Inspector General found it "did not constitute sexual harassment" but rather "conduct unbecoming" a senator - right before the March 2018 primary. Most people don't follow and don't care about this kind of stuff, but Democratic voters do, especially those who are well-informed, progressive and feminist ... and vote in primaries. Silverstein was opposed by Ram Villivalam, and got 29.9 percent.

Garrido's mistake was running for the REPUBLICAN nomination for county board president in 2010. If it wasn't for that decision, Garrido would have likely won for alderman in 2011. Arena's public sector allies (like the SEIU) poured almost $700,000 in mailings and manpower into the ward, trashing Garrido as a "Bush Republican" who would "bring Republican values" to the area. Arena's Portage Park base barely out-voted Garrido's Jefferson Park/ Gladstone Park base. Garrido's ongoing opposition to Arena (who lost in 2019) made him a polarizing figure, both loved and hated (like Arena).

Too bad politicians can't get errors-and-omissions insurance.

There are 380 judges in Cook County, of which 140 are appointed associate judges, and 240 are elected full Circuit Court judges, with 85 chosen countywide and 155 from the 15 subcircuits, which each elect 10-12 judges. The concept of subcircuits was hatched in 1991 by Republicans and minorities to supplant the at-large system, where Democratic slatemakers dictated who got nominated. The goal was to give Republicans a shot at five suburban districts, while five in Chicago were super-majority-minority (four black and one Hispanic) with minority populations over 50 percent. Each subcircuit has a population of about 350,000, with about 250,000 registered voters. A subcircuit judge, after election, stands for countywide retention every 6 years. Upon retirement, the subcircuit elects the replacement.

It's worked out mostly as planned, with subcircuits 1, 2, 5 and 7 putting and keeping 40-plus African-Americans on the bench, plus another 10 in the Hispanic 6th, at least until lately. In 2020 two non-Hispanic white women were nominated, in 2018 a white won one of three, and in 2016 a white won two of three. The reason is demographic gentrification - in-moving whites displacing Hispanics. That has occurred in the 6th's east end in West Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Roscoe Village, Logan Square and East Humboldt Park.

Due to an anomaly in the 1991 bill, there was no remap provision. The 6th is becoming a non-minority-majority district. The subcircuits' boundaries have not changed in 29 years. This was presumably cured by House Bill 2625 which passed in 2019 and mandates a legislative redraw of the 15 subcircuits after the 2020 census, effective 2022. According to ex-judge Gloria Chevere, a putative new 6th District will jettison the 1st and 32nd wards, the east part of the 33rd and 35h, some of the 26th, and then move north and west, gobbling the 36th and 38th wards and moving out to the close-in suburbs around Melrose Park and Elmwood Park. The existing white-dominated Northwest Side 10th and 11th subcircuits would be cannibalized and collapsed into one, and a new subcircuit created along the north Chicago Riverfront up through Ravenswood, and into the 47th, 40th and 39th wards.

As for the Republicans, subcircuits 4, 12, 13, 14 and 15 have been a bust, due to demographic change and Democratic strength. Probably 12-15 Republicans have won in the past decade.

9TH SUBCIRCUIT: Enough voters know who is running for subcircuit judge, who is rated qualified by the bar associations, who has political and media endorsements, and who is politically correct. Usually that's not more than 10 percent of the registered voters (RVs), and that vote is determinative. And it invariably goes to any woman unless the man has politically correct clout. "Voters pay attention" in subcircuit races, said consultant Sean Tenner. "This is their judge."

The 9th has over 250,000 registered voters, with 155,000 in the 149 suburban precincts and 100,000 in the 94 Chicago precincts. Only 70,000 turned out on March 17. The winners were Tom Cushing, an appointed judge endorsed by the organizations of Evanston Township and the 49th Ward, for the Axelrood vacancy, who got 23,857 votes, or 39 percent, and Julie Aimen, endorsed by Evanston, for the Luckman vacancy, who got 34,189 votes, or 54.6 percent, beating appointed judge Mike Braun, endorsed by the 49th Ward. Evanston has 55 precincts and the 49th has 31. Silverstein, running against Cushing, got 6 percent in Evanston (compared to Cushing's 47 percent) and 13.2 percent in the 49th (compared to Cushing's 33.1 and Pam Stratigakis's 45.3 percent), amassing a total of 12,127 votes, which gave him his 19.8 percent.

Silverstein's Orthodox Jewish base proved to be woefully inadequate. In his home 50th Ward, with 39 precincts and where wife Debra Silverstein is alderman and now Democratic committeeperson, Silverstein got 3,637 votes, or 45.9 percent, in a turnout of 7,929. In suburban Niles Township, including Skokie and Lincolnwood, Silverstein got 4,210 votes, or 23 percent, in a turnout of 18,296. The area was part of Silverstein's senate district. Silverstein got an anemic 799 and 197 votes in New Trier and Northfield townships (31 precincts), respectively.

10TH SUBCIRCUIT: This is supposedly a law-and-order district, but winners Maire Eileen Dempsey (for the McGing vacancy) and Mary Marubio (for the O'Brien vacancy) conclusively proved otherwise. "He was that conservative cop from out west," noted Tenner of Garrido, and he got no traction east of Cicero, getting only 11.7 percent, or 1,317 votes, in the 47th Ward's 41 precincts, 16.9 percent, or 976 votes in the 40th Ward's 26 precincts, and 31.1 percent, or 2,773 votes, in the 39th Ward's 45 precincts. But the coup de gr‰ce was Garrido's performance in the 45th Ward, and in the 41st Ward, where Alderman Anthony Napolitano's endorsed him. He lost 6,083-6,053 for alderman in 2011 in a turnout of 12,136, and he lost 8,488-7,263 in 2015 in a turnout of 15,751. On March 17 he got 4,268 votes, or 45.1 percent, in a turnout of 9,478, with Dempsey (supported by the Arena crowd) getting 37.5 percent and Jon Stromsta the remainder. In the cop-heavy 41st Ward, Garrido got 4,679 votes, or 51.5 percent, with Dempsey at 35.9 percent. Dempsey topped Garrido 4,331-1,814 in the 61 suburban precincts.

Marubio, a "progressive" appointed judge with good bar ratings and LGBTQ support, got 40 percent, finishing first in every ward.