Thursday, March 31, 2016

Starting to look at the judicial primary results

I was going to get to this sooner... but then the AJ short list came out and bumped this off the top of the pile.

Doesn't it seem like the March primary was six months ago? Such is the frenetic pace of the modern world. Nevertheless, the votes were counted only 17 days ago. My calendar says it's still March, if barely.

It's easy enough to say what happened in the judicial races. To begin with, in contested, countywide Democratic primary races, slated candidates won only four of eight races.  The slated winners were:
  • Judge Rossana P. Fernandez (Elrod vacancy);
  • Judge Alison C. Conlon (Hogan vacancy);
  • Judge Aleksandra Gillespie (Howlett, Jr. vacancy); and
  • Judge Daniel P. Duffy (Ruscitti Grussel vacancy).
The four candidates who successfully challenged the slate were:
  • Carolyn J. Gallagher (Johnson vacancy) , first in a field of five candidates, three of whom were men, including the party's slated candidate, Sean S. Chaudhuri;
  • Mary Kathleen McHugh (Karnezis vacancy), besting two male candidates, including the slated candidate Judge Devlin J. Schoop;
  • Susana L. Ortiz (Palmer vacancy), beating one male candidate (the Democratic Party's slated candidate, Pat Heneghan) and one female candidate; and
  • Patrick J. Powers (Walsh vacancy), defeating slated candidate Judge Fredrick H. Bates in a one-on-one contest.
Six judges serving pursuant to Supreme Court appointment had to face the voters in contested countywide primaries; four of the six prevailed. Was 2016 another Year of the Woman?  Six of the contested primary winners are female.  Of the two male winners, only Judge Duffy prevailed in a field in which there was a female candidate.  Is this an Irish-surname Renaissance?   Conlon, Duffy, Gallagher, McHugh, Powers, arguably Gillespie (the Scots have a claim on this surname as well)... as for the outliers, Judge Fernandez bested a male candidate with a Polish surname -- but Susana Ortiz beat Pat Heneghan.  Heneghan may not be the most common Irish name, but it's hard to mistake its origins, right?

Turnout was huge for this year's primary, particularly as opposed to the dismal turnout in 2014.  High turnout has a tendency to dilute the value of party slating.  Voters "with Hilary" or "Feeling the Bern" may not have spent a lot of time looking at the judicial races before coming out to support their candidate.  Were the slated countywide judicial candidates victims, in some sense, of the high turnout?

Was union support a major factor here?  Six of the eight contested countywide primary winners had the backing of the Chicago Federation of Labor, including all four of the slated primary winners.  Carolyn Gallagher and Mary Kathleen McHugh also had the CFL endorsement and won -- but Heneghan and Judge Bates did not prevail despite the CFL's nod.

I have lots of questions, but (and this is why I'll never make it on CNN or MSNBC) no assurance that I have all the answers. I did reach out to a number of people after the primary who have, I belive, valuable perspectives on the outcomes. I've heard back from some already; I expect to hear from more before long.

But to start matters rolling, I will put up a guest post by judicial election consultant Sean Tenner. Look for that post later today.

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