Wednesday, January 29, 2014

O'Brien drops countywide bid

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Brendan A. O'Brien withdrew last Friday from the race for the countywide Connors vacancy.

O'Brien's departure leaves two candidates in that race, Kristal Rivers and Judge Peter J. Vikelis.


Albert said...

Surprising to see how few candidates are running for countywide vacancies. Eleven circuit court slots and only twenty total candidates--the lowest ratio since the early 80s.

Jack Leyhane said...

I think the small number of candidates is a product of the projected dismal voter turnout. Some candidates (some of the non-slated sitting judges) have no choice; they obviously believe that they have to run to keep their jobs (there presumably is no guarantee that the Supreme Court would reappoint anyone).

For other would-be candidates, though, it's all mathematics. The advantage of the slated candidates should be maximized by the likely very low turnout. Citizens who have to be "energized" or "inspired" to come out to the polls, citizens who do not understand that they have a sacred duty to participate -- these would-be voters will be doing other things in March. Would-be candidates who might otherwise have taken their chances, but who still wanted to keep their hopes of Party support alive in the future, have calculated this -- and decided to sit this dance out.

Because there is such a low turnout projected, we should be able to see whether some candidates really are slated differently than others. I suspect that, as in past elections, some non-slated candidates will enjoy significant support in areas that other candidates carry decisively. With turnout likely to be so low, however, many other explanatory factors will be unavailable to explain the differences. (Are there really enough voters who come out because it is their duty -- voters who will make decisions for themselves -- to make a difference?) The conclusion may be inescapable that some organizations 'dumped' slated candidates. Some ward and township organizations routinely go against the Party slate in at least some judicial races. Whether so many will do so this time that some slated candidates lose won't be determined until the votes are counted.

Albert said...

You may well be right; that could be the thinking. A lot of people believe that low turnout automatically means a high value for being slated. Ironically, the evidence shows that the belief is incorrect. The value of slating also depends on other things: the mood of the electorate that turns out, and the attractiveness of candidates at the top of the ballot. For instance, two years ago turnout was very low and slating was worth 13% of the vote, which is several points higher than the historical average...but in 2010 turnout was also very low yet slating was less than half as valuable. So it's not a lock-step relationship. Yet another of the misconceptions that have remarkable staying power.

The deviation of ward and township organizations from the party slate has been growing in recent years. The proportions haven't been substantial--yet--but it will be interesting to see if they keep growing because as you said, it could definitely have an effect.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jack - Let me give you the back story to why this happened. Why would a candidate spend a boat-load of money to get on the ballot only to drop-out several weeks later? Very simple: A promise to have Cook County Central Democratic Party support two years down the road. Ask any candidate on the ballot WHO IS NOT SLATED if they received a call from the Cook County Democrats to come to their LaSalle Street office for a little talk about dropping out and their answer will be yes.

At slating all candidates are asked if they will run against the party candidate if they are not slated - and to earn favor down the road - most say no. Some however grit their teeth and come up with a creative answer and spend money to get on the ballot - only with the intent of dropping out when asked to earn favor with the Party.

Is this a bad thing? I'm not sure if it is a bad thing but it certainly is not a good thing for the voters. It is my opinion that fault can not be placed on the candidates for dropping out. They have a dream of getting to the bench and they will try any strategy that works. I just think, and it is my opinion only, that the Cook County Democratic Party is a joke for so actively trying to get everyone off the ballot. They are so afraid of a fair fight. My vote is going to every non-slated candidate in each race. I believe that those candidates have guts, do not make deals, and are independent, and that is what I want in a judge.

Jack Leyhane said...

Well, Anon, I don't know that non-slated candidates have more "guts" than those slated, nor, even if that were so, would I accept that "guts" are necessarily the best indicator of good performance in judicial office (although having the courage of one's convictions to discern and apply the law correctly in a given case, even where the result may be unpopular, is certainly a judicial virtue).

Nor, since it is perfectly legal, can I get too upset if the Democratic Party attempts to 'negotiate' candidates off the ballot.

On the other hand, judicial candidates who are tempted by that siren song should remember a principle they first learned in law school: Promises to perform an act in the future, even where the persons making the promise have no present intention to perform, are generally not enforceable.

Albert said...

Did some follow-up research on this. In the last twelve primaries there have been four with no significant Democratic contests at the top of the ballot (meaning, low turnout would be expected, just like this year). It turns out that there’s no difference between the number of judicial candidates per Circuit Court vacancy in those four primaries compared to the other eight. In fact, the low-turnout-expected primaries had slightly more candidates (4.7 per vacancy compared to 4.4). This casts doubt on the idea that potential candidates sit out for fear of the consequences of low turnout.

As far as deal-cutting, is more of that going on now than in past years? The question is why there fewer candidates this year than in the past. My understanding is that those kinds of deals have been made for many years. But if the party is being more aggressive than usual about it this year, then that could certainly explain the drop in candidates.

Anonymous said...

Why would a candidate string along people to all these fundraisers and the very last minute drop out? Sounds as if this candidate got something in return.

Anonymous said...

The Cook County Democratic party slate is stronger than ever. They were slated based on their qualifications not whether they would still run if not slated. To vote against all slated Dems sounds like what Republicans in Congress do. They vote against anything Dems bring to the table. Read each candidate's web site, read their profiles and Facebook page...then read a book.

Anonymous said...

To the last Comment - Are you out of your mind? I admit that there are some well qualified candidates and judges that are slated this year. However, some of the most highly qualified candidates were not slated. Do not tell us to read a book. The slat is crafted with the intent of appealing to those how look for diversity. A certain number of men, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, etc. Qualifications are not unfortunately the most important factor that the slat makers look for. I was at slating this year at the Allegro Hotel. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle did not hid the fact that she wanted women and African-Americans on the slat. Also - I do not think that a candidates website or Facebook place is an unbiassed source of information about that candidate. I must agree that I believe the Cook County Dem. Party makes deals with candidates who run against the slat because they have very little confidence in their slated candidate. I will vote for who I believe is the most qualified candidate. Some bare slated and some are not. As a practicing attorney of over 25 years I have come to know most of the candidates. Some that have good qualifications and bar ratings I believe will make poor judges. I can tell you that I had a real estate closing with one such candidate several years ago and she did not even know how to pro-rate real estate taxes and rarely set foot into a courtroom while she was in private practice. Go to her website and you would think that she is a top practitioner. My point is if you believe candidates are slated because of their qualifications you are absolutely wrong. What do you think Mr. Leyhane?

Jack Leyhane said...

Anon 2/5 @ 8:42 p.m. -- Since you asked, I think candidate web sites are a very good resource for voters to consult. Are candidate websites biased? Of course! However, if someone tries too hard to spin straw into gold on their website, chances are pretty good that the bar ratings will present a more accurate characterization. The bar ratings will be released soon.

You say that some candidates with good ratings and qualifications will make poor judges. I agree. Some will be unable to step away from the role of advocate. Some may not find the judicial calling as fulfilling as they'd imagined and give their new career short shrift. Some may think it a glorified gateway to retirement and 'coast.' And what do they say about investments in the commercials? Past performance is no guarantee of future returns?

But I believe that "some" is almost always a very small percentage. In general, it's very encouraging that the Democratic Party has, in recent election cycles at least, made an effort to promote fairly qualified candidates. Are there some better-qualified candidates who did not, and could not, get slated? Oh, absolutely. But a person is not somehow better qualified for not being slated. Not in and of itself.

I'm a little taken aback by your complaint about diversity. Granting that you wrote your comment in haste, I'll assume that you did not mean to suggest that a diverse slate can not also be qualified. Speaking as a middle-aged white male (I think I can still claim to be middle-aged) the opening up of opportunities for others may have closed some doors for me personally. But our whole system of government would fall apart if people were ever to lose confidence in the rule of law. A thoughtful, independent, qualified, diverse judiciary helps reenforce that vital confidence with the public.

Do I think the Democratic Party makes "deals" with non-slated candidates because of a lack of confidence in the slate? No. I do think the Party wants to carry as many of its slated candidates as possible. If, in the opinion of Party leaders, making a "deal" in a given race helps carry the slated candidate, they'll try and make a deal. The point is that, if this slate does well, more lawyers will get in line for the party endorsement in future election cycles -- and donate accordingly. Is that cynical? I don't think so. Not really. It's just reality.

Here's the bottom line: There are some really good slated candidates. There are some really good non-slated candidates, too. I'm trying to present all information that's publicly available and verifiable about all the candidates so that voters can make the best possible choices.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Leyhane, I agree with most everything you wrote. I just believe that if qualifications were the only factor that the Dem. Party took into consideration the slate would not have the same make-up as it has now. The slate is crafted taking into consideration diversity and qualifications. One highly-qualified appointed white male judge was not slated this year in favor of a lesser qualified minority candidate. It was noted that the appointed judge ran two years earlier in a sub-circuit that was carved-out for minorities which was a no-no. The fact that the appointed judge was a long-time resident of that sub-circuit was not considered !

I do not want to offend anyone with my views. I just do not value diversity. As an attorney - I want to stand before a qualified judge. I do not care what color their skin is, their age, or their sex. Does society lose "confidence" (for lack of a better term in this analogy) in the NHL because it is mostly white or the NBA because it is mostly black? When a coach puts a team together will he overlook an outstanding black player because he needs to be a slave to diversity so he picks a white person? The ethnic and racial and sexual demographic of the bench should sort itself out as the result of supporting the most qualified candidates. We do not need the geniuses who run the Dem. slating committee to tinker with this. Take diversity considerations away and the slate would be much more qualified.

Anonymous said...

I believe the Dem Party slated those it believed where the most qualified and those that reflected the diversity of Cook County. I also believe they selected their slate based on what those candidates could bring to the Cook County Dem Party. Does the candidate have a track record of representing the people or defending corporations. Moreover, I am sure they considered whether the candidate has a legitimate chance of running for other offices in the future. Experience, character, ethnicity, gender and elect-ability are all factors.