Monday, September 16, 2013

For those who came in late: FAQs about FWIW

Now that judicial candidate petitions are circulating, this seems an appropriate time to review what I'm trying to accomplish with my coverage of Cook County judicial races. A lot of this stuff is already addressed in the blog Sidebar, but this post aims to answer any questions that may be in the minds of prospective candidates or their supporters:
  1. This is a non-partisan blog. I want to cover all candidates running for judge in Cook County. If a candidate has a website, I will link to it and post it in the blog Sidebar. Because this is Cook County, the vast majority of posts here will be about candidates running as Democrats. If recent patterns hold, the winners of the Democratic primary races in March will be elected in November without opposition, Republican or otherwise. That does not mean I won't cover Republican candidates; it just means there aren't that many to cover. To the extent that there are Republican candidates, I intend to post about them, too.
  2. This blog does not make endorsements. I do know some of the candidates who are covered here, whether because I've had cases with or against them over the years, or we've officed together, or because we've met through bar functions, or because we've met through this blog. I have mentioned significant connections, but I don't think the public cares how many candidates I've met or who I intend to vote for. Instead, I've made an editorial decision to try and present all candidates in the most positive light that I can, especially in my first post about a campaign. When the bar association evaluations come out, later in the election cycle, I will also report these -- and, of course, not all of the evaluations will be positive. But I'm not going to go out of my way to slam anyone.

    I believe the best candidates will distinguish themselves when information about all candidates is presented for the voters' consideration. In addition to bar evaluations, I will advise of newspaper endorsements (if they're made) or community group or union endorsements (when I can verify them). On the other hand, while I won't make individual endorsements, I have been a lawyer for 33 years and I know a little something about what I want for my clients when I appear in court. I reserve the right to talk about that -- in general terms -- in future posts.
  3. I want to publicize candidates' events. This post appears sandwiched between two posts about candidate fundraisers. But I will publicize more than candidates' fundraising efforts. If a candidate wants to promote a speaking engagement or publicize a petition party, I'll run that, too. I will try and include photographs if the candidate or his or her campaign provides them. But I do have a day job and I can't possibly find out about all candidate events on my own. I rely primarily on candidate requests for publicity. I'm sure I'll hear from some campaigns ten times or more; there are others that I'll never hear from once. That does not mean I'm playing favorites; I'm just responding to the email I receive.
  4. Judicial candidates are not charged to get their information on this blog. I don't book the Google ads on this page, but I personally am not accepting candidate ads. (I will accept ads from persons or companies looking to offer products or services to judicial candidates; see the blog Sidebar for additional information.)

    Information about candidates and campaigns is put up here without charge. In this early stage of the election cycle, judicial election posts on FWIW are read primarily by candidates, their supporters, and persons who are thinking about running for judge at some time in the future. Ultimately, however, as the primary date draws close, I hope that the information collected here will be of use to the voters -- so no one can truthfully say (are you listening Chicago Tribune?) that one can't find out anything about the many men and women who seek judicial office in Cook County.
  5. I am not a professional journalist. However, since professional journalists insist on ignoring judicial elections, I will do the best I can. Having run for judge twice myself (in 1994 and 1996) I appreciate just how little opportunity judicial candidates have to get their credentials before the public. I've already stated my editorial bias in favor of trying to present candidates in the best possible light, at least in my initial post about any given campaign. However, I reserve the right to fact-check information provided, to add information I've discovered on my own, to combine or even ignore duplicative releases. In short, I reserve the right to edit, with one exception that I will explain at the end of this post.
  6. Comments on this blog are 'moderated.' This means I read any comment that anyone cares to leave and decide whether or not it will get posted. I will not automatically exclude anonymous comments, but I'd greatly prefer you leave a name. I don't think that comments from friends and family like "he's the best" or "she's the most qualified" are going to really sway any voters when the time comes -- but I will generally let these kinds of comments through. I will generally block "attack" comments, especially from anonymous commenters. Already in this election cycle, I've gotten comments to the effect that Candidate X is from a 'clout paranoid family,' or that no one should support Candidate Y because of all the negative online comments about him (perhaps from this same anonymous source?), or that Candidate Z is a 'sleepy old piece of [stuff].' You'll not be seeing those comments on this blog.

    I understand that this is a blog and there is an expectation, for better or worse, that all Internet commentary should be freewheeling and even pungent. But this is my blog and I reserve the right to exclude overly nasty or personal comments. I don't intend to stifle discussion; I merely want that discussion to be reasonably civil. If I allow a sharp comment about your favorite candidate to be published, you will think I'm not strict enough. If I 'flush' your broadside against Candidate X, you may think I'm too strict. Consider this my apology-in-advance -- and consider leaving a comment I can publish.
One final note: Candidate filing begins on November 25 and closes December 2 (there is a special judicial filing period for any late-opening vacancies that runs from December 16-23). Thus by Christmas, we will know who has filed for all Cook County judicial vacancies. These candidates will all be bombarded with questionnaires from newspapers and all sorts of special interest groups asking very specific, and often very pointed, questions about issues dear to the inquiring group. FWIW does something a little different. Around the beginning of January I will begin asking any interested candidate to provide a statement, an essay addressed directly to the voters. I've done this before and several candidates have taken advantage; to see the kinds of things candidates have wanted to share with voters in previous elections, click on this link. I'll run these statements 'as is,' without edits, and I will link these "In Their Own Words" posts when I put up the Organizing the Data posts when we get closer to the primary.

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