Wednesday, November 05, 2014

James Paul Pieczonka prevails in 12th Subcircuit

I reported last night that Republican James Paul Pieczonka was ahead of Judge James Kaplan in the far north suburban 12th Subcircuit after significant returns had been reported. These figures from Cook County Clerk David Orr's website this morning confirm last night's trend.

While this outcome may come as a surprise to many FWIW readers, particularly in light of the disparity in bar association ratings between the candidates, the result is not unprecedented. In fact, when a coalition of Republicans and racial minorities in the legislature created the Cook County subcircuit system in the early 1990s, the 12th Subcircuit was envisioned as a safe haven for Republican judicial candidates. And so it proved to be until 2006, when three female Democratic candidates beat three male Republicans for the three judicial vacancies at stake that year.

No Republican has been elected from the 12th Subcircuit since, until yesterday, but, perhaps, Pieczonka's election may represent a return to historical norms. Or the result may be a fluke. Time will tell. Either way, in 2016, if there is a vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit, count on multiple candidates filing for both the Republican and Democratic primaries there.


Anonymous said...

The lesson to be learned by the shamefull result in the 12th is that bar evaluations are the least influencial in judicical elections than all other factors. They are something to talk about during the campaign but in the final analysis good bar scores don't don't make you a winner and bad bar evaluations don't make you a loser.

Albert said...

Historically more than 90% of the vote in subcircuit general elections is based purely on party. Ratings, name cues, campaign spending, all much more influential in primaries, but in November it's all about the party label. So this isn't much of a surprise for the 12th, considering how well Republicans did generally.

Anonymous said...

My, what an interesting, tawdry race with a lot of twists and turns. Poor James Kaplan clearly fell victim to the push for Rauner and Dold in the 12th subcircuit. Recall Kaplan was the subject of a WGN story right before the primary about a residency issue. To survive that primary after that news story, and then to lose to a republican in Cook County is gut-wrenching.

I do disagree in part about bar ratings being ignored. If you look at the countywide judicial races, there was a distinct drop off in votes for candidates who had negative bar ratings, and higher numbers for those with better.

Anyway, when it comes to partisan issues, I don't think anyone cared. People voted for the republican and it did not matter in this particular case what the candidate's ratings were.

Mr. Leyhane is right, look for republicans running in the 12th for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

While there may have some validity to the basis for the judicial evaluations of Pieczonka, another factor overlooked here so far is that there is strong evidence that was not qualified, due to not living in the district.

Yeah, he tried to weasel his way around it (how typical) with his "man cave" explanation. Horsefeathers. The American people are sick and tired of weasels and slick maneuvers, like yesterday's election results show.

I'd rather have a guy who met the basic qualifications and needs a little polishing than a liar.

Jack Leyhane said...

I can't help but agree that WGN's focus on Judge Kaplan's residency did not help his cause. WGN may have unearthed some real problems for some other judges with residency questions -- time will tell -- but, apparently, those cases didn't have good visuals, so they got downplayed. But I'd have thought that showing up unannounced at Judge Kaplan's stated residence and having him answer the door would have put the 'controversy' to rest in that case. He was really there. Why was there still a story?

Judge Kaplan had a family situation, which WGN ignored, but WGN's partner in the investigation, Medill Watchdog, to its credit, mentioned in its companion story, that explained why, in his case, he could not move his entire family into Glenview. I linked to that at the time.

The irony is that WGN claimed it was looking to improve the quality of the judiciary elected from the subcircuits (ignoring the fact that many excellent judges have been elected from the subcircuits right from the start, with seemingly fewer questionable cases in each succeeding election cycle) and yet the negative pall the WGN 'investigation' unfairly put on Judge Kaplan enabled the election of a candidate who, on paper at least, is far less qualified.

Don't get me wrong: I wish Mr. Pieczonka the best in his judicial career. I hope he does well -- and I hope that when he goes before the bar associations at retention time, six years hence, he will get nothing but positive ratings from every bar group. That does happen, you know. It happened this year for a number of candidates first elected in 2008 with subpar bar ratings.

But I think Judge Kaplan was unfairly singled out by WGN and I believe he lost votes because of it. And that's a shame.

The other explanation in his case is probably Dold-Schneider more than Rauner-Quinn. Depending, that is, on how much of the 12th Subcircuit lies within the 10th Congressional. Do any readers know that information offhand? It would be interesting to see the vote breakdown from the portion of the 12th that is inside the 10th Congressional as opposed to the breakdown from portions of the 12th outside the 10th Congressional.

Albert said...

That report ran nearly a year ago, a single report on a low-rated local newscast. If any more than a handful of voters remembered it after so long and changed their vote because of it, I'd be stunned. This was a pure party-line vote all the way, absolutely typical of bottom-of-the-ballot partisan contests.

P.S. 32% of the votes in this contest came from the 10th Congressional, according to the latest data on the CC elections website.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment on the losing Republican candidate in the 4th Subcircuit: The Law Bulletin quoted him as saying"It's very hard for a Republican to win a contested judicial race in Cook County. The way the system is set up there are not many ways Republicans represent their community." While the open vacancy was to replace retired Judge Rick Billik who won as a Republican in 1992, when Judge Billik was on the bench he did not make rulings as a Republican representing his community, he made rulings as a competent judge. That's what the voters should be choosing. Someone who wants to be a judge to represent his or her political party should not be elected. Although the guy will probably try again in 2 years, maybe for retired Judge Kunkle's vacancy - someone else elected as a Republican who also ruled as a competent judge, not a party representative.