Monday, February 10, 2014

Still looking for judicial candidates' statements in their own words

This post is specifically directed at the current crop of Cook County judicial candidates and their campaign advisers.

With the start of early voting only three weeks away now, I realize that judicial candidates are being pulled in many directions these days. And now I'm asking for something, too: I’d like to give you an opportunity to get your message directly to potential voters.

I will print any statement that any Cook County judicial candidate cares to make right here on For What It’s Worth. This is the fourth election cycle in which I’ve extended this invitation. In 2008, more than two dozen candidates took me up on this. In 2010 and 2012, only a few candidates did. I hope many of you will take advantage of this opportunity, but (subject to a few provisos, stipulations and rules that I will presently address) I will print what I get, whether I get five statements or 55. When I put up the Organizing the Data posts shortly before the primary, I will link back to any statements I’ve received, providing voters an additional chance to receive your message directly.

I make this offer because, when I ran for judge in 1994 and 1996, I would have been thrilled to have such a forum.

Things were different, of course, back then: The Internet was still a largely undiscovered country. I think I was just learning how to use email. On dial-up. Today, you have the opportunity to reach nearly every single voter in Cook County without leaving your den. You can of course speak to voters directly from your own sites as well, but I am offering you an additional platform, an additional opportunity for voters to find out about you when they start searching the Internet for information about our upcoming judicial elections.

Candidates need only send me an email (to; there’s another link in the sidebar of this blog) with their essay.

In the essay, you can say what you want. This is no questionnaire, like the ones you had to fill out for IVI-IPO or the ICJL or any of the other groups that have asked for your opinions on all sorts of things. Write what's important to you. Write what you think is important for voters to know about you. I don’t know that there is any “right” answer. You can send me a statement of personal philosophy, the stump speech you’ve always wanted to make, the pitch you’d like to make at every voter’s front door, your ‘closing argument’ to the electorate, or whatever else you think appropriate.

I’m not going to tell anyone what to say or how to say it. Looking back, I’m not sure what I would have said if I’d had a chance like this 20 years ago.

However, I would suggest, as my mother used to say, that you don’t make your own candle shine brighter by trying to blow out someone else’s. Tell voters why you should be elected, not why your opponent should not be.

I strongly suggest that it makes sense for you to put your statement in the first person (be personal, use “I” and “me”) because I will run your statement as your statement, under your byline, by Sally Smith, by John Jones. I know some of you are paying consultants to help you craft your message and there may be a temptation to simply delegate this task. Resist that temptation: Get feedback from your advisers before you send me anything, but let your voice come through in your essay. I know writing such an essay won’t be an easy task: As lawyers, we’re used to advocating for a client -- for someone else. It’s not as easy to talk about ourselves. But this is an opportunity for you to define yourself, rather than be defined by questionnaire responses.

If I don’t already have your picture, include a head shot with your email. I’ll run that with the post. I will not edit candidate statements. I’ll print what you send. (That’s why I need an email, to verify what was sent, and by whom.) To see what other candidate statements have looked like, click on the “In Their Own Words” tag at the bottom of this post and start scrolling down. I will only put up one statement per candidate.

I realize some of you already have statements of the types solicited here on your own campaign websites. If you ask me to run a substantially similar statement here, or even the same statement, I will do so. I will not pull statements from your site on my own, however. If you want me to put your statement here, you have to send me the statement.

Please get your statement in as soon as possible. Because I will link to them from the Organizing the Data posts, there’s no advantage to delay. And if you do try and wait until the last minute, when I am working on those roundup posts, I may be unable to get your essay posted. I have a practice to attend to as well.

I do not intend to impose any limit on the statement’s length; presumably you won’t want to compose anything overwhelmingly long. For illustration purposes, my word processor advises me that this post is about 900 words long.

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