Sunday, April 03, 2016

Continuing to look at the 2016 judicial primary results

As you will note from the post below, the 2018 primary season is already underway -- can you believe it?

Here at FWIW, we're still sifting through the ashes and embers of the 2016 campaign, looking for clues and trends and lessons that might be helpful in future campaigns... oh, wait, we've started the 2018 campaign season here, too, aren't we?

It was a tough election for a lot of sitting judges, slated candidates, and male candidates generally.

In contested countywide judicial races, six candidates already sitting as judges pursuant to appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court, all slated by the Democratic Party, three male and three female, tried to hold their seats. Only four did, including each of the female candidates. The Democratic Party carried only four of the eight candidates it slated in countywide judicial races. Still, it did better than the Tribune. In the eight contested countywide judicial races, only three candidates backed by the Tribune were successful.

And it was arguably worse for men, slated candidates, and appointed judges in contested races in the Subcircuits.

In the 1st Subcircuit, both of the judges, both slated by the Democratic Party, one male and one female, were rejected by the voters. Judge Maryam Ahmad was defeated by Jesse Outlaw; Judge Anthony E. Simpkins was defeated by Rhonda Crawford. Crawford did not participate in the bar screening process; Outlaw did not participate in the CBA screening process, but was rated qualified, recommended or better by each of the Alliance bar groups.

Simpkins and Ahmad were both endorsed by the Tribune.

In the 2nd Subcircuit, slated candidate Travis Richardson, who had strong bar ratings and the Tribune endorsement, lost to D. Renee Jackson, a candidate who did not participate in the bar screening process. Actually, Richardson finished fourth, the only male candidate in a field of four.

The two contested races in the 5th Subcircuit departed from the New-Year-of-the-Woman script: Associate Judge Leonard Murray beat Jameika Mangum. Murray had the Tribune's support, but so did appointed Judge Robin D. Shoffner -- and she lost to Daryl Jones.

Judge Anna Loftus beat the slated candidate in the one contested 6th Subcircuit vacancy; she did have the Tribune's backing.

The Tribune backed Judge Patricia S. Spratt, who won her contested 7th Subcircuit race over a crowded field that included the Democratic Party's slated candidate, Jennifer Ballard.

Judge Jerry Esrig was slated and endorsed by the Tribune and faced only one challenger, another male. He won his 9th Subcircuit race.

Judge Eve Reilly was not slated initially, but she wound up slated when the originally-slated candidate withdrew. She did not enjoy the Tribune's endorsement in her 10th Subcircuit race, but she finished first in her four candidate race. There were two men running against her and one woman. Judge Reilly's nearest competitor was the other female candidate.

Judge Marc Martin faced one male challenger and one female in his 11th Subcircuit race. He enjoyed the advantages of incumbency, the Tribune's endorsement, and the backing of the Democratic Party. He finished second to Catherine Ann Schneider.

Two of the three slated Democrats running in the 12th Subcircuit won their contested primary races. James E. Hanlon, Jr. had only one male opponent. The other successful slated Democrat, Janet Cronin Mahoney, also had just one male opponent. Both Hanlon and Mahoney were endorsed by the Tribune.

But the Democratic Party's slated candidate in the race for the 12th Subcircuit Kazmierski, Jr. vacancy, Louis G. Apostol, had two female opponents, and one male. Associate Judge Marguerite Anne Quinn grabbed nearly 45% of the vote in that race; Jennifer Bae finished second with nearly 31%. Quinn had the Tribune endorsement.

There were two contested Republican primary judicial races, one in the 12th Subcircuit, one in the 12th and one in the 13th Subcircuit. Steven Kozicki won his race in the 12th Subcircuit, while Kevin O'Donnell won in the 13th. Kozicki did have the backing of the Tribune. O'Donnell had neither the Tribune nor Republican Party slating.

If you're keeping score at home, just as in the countywide races, only four of the judges appointed to their seats by the Illinois Supreme Court successfully navigated the electoral process. But in the subcircuits, it was only four of eight; countywide, it was four of six. (Primary winners Leonard Murray and Marguerite Anne Quinn don't count; they are associate judges and would have remained in office whether they won or lost in this year's Circuit Court election.)

Six of the eight Supreme-Court-appointed judges running in contested subcircuit races were slated (if Shoffner counts as slated, which I think she does, though I never had official confirmation). Of the six slated, only two, Esrig and Reilly, won. And Reilly was not the Democratic Party's first choice; the party's originally slated candidate withdrew. The two sitting judges who ran without the official backing of the Democratic Party, Loftus and Spratt, both won, and both are female.

The Democratic Party got its candidates elected in only five of the 13 contested subcircuit vacancies (again, assuming that Shoffner and Murray were slated in the 5th). The Democratic Party won one of two contests in the 5th Subcircuit, the races in the 9th and 10th Subcircuits, and two of the three contested races in the 12th. Both the 12th Subcircuit winners -- all four of the 12th Subcircuit winners, actually, will face Republican opponents in November, so their election can not, at this stage, be assumed.

The Tribune actually did better than the Democratic Party in the subcircuits: Eight candidates endorsed by the newspaper won their respective subcircuit primary races, including one of the two Republicans receiving the Tribune's nod. That means the winner of the newspaper's endorsement also won in seven of the 13 contested Democratic primary races.

Is there a single explanation for the results this election year? All of the observers I've talked with have emphasized the strong turnout this year. The total turnout numbers are truly staggering. In Cook County, almost 1.2 million voters took Democratic ballots this year (1,197,073), while another 314,537 voters took Republican ballots. (There's a major dropoff in terms of voter participation as one moves down the ballot; you will see figures in an upcoming post that suggests that the median number of votes cast this year in the countywide judicial races -- all in the Democratic primary, you'll remember -- was 836,222.)

By comparison, the total number of Democratic ballots taken in Cook County in 2014 was only 285,728 (169,922 Republican ballots).

Of course, 2014 was not a presidential year. In the most recent presidential election year, 2012, voters took 440,873 Democratic ballots in Cook County, while 200,750 voters took Republican ballots. But President Obama faced no opposition in 2012.

The 2008 primary provides a better comparison; that was the last time the presidential circus pulled into town without the outcome in both parties being already decided. And, no surprise, turnout was darn near as high in 2008 as in March of this year: 1,086,984 Democratic voters and 179,464 Republican voters took ballots in Cook County eight years ago.

But, in 2008, the Democratic Party carried six of its nine slated candidates to victory in contested countywide primaries, as opposed to only four of eight this year. And, in 2008, as in 2016, several appointed judges had trouble holding their seats in contested subcircuit elections.

But, as the old saying goes, all politics is local. In Cook County, politics is so local, it's often personal. The overall picture is not changed by looking at some of these individual stories, but perhaps the strength of the trends can be explained, at least in part, by examination of some of the stories involving individual campaigns. More on some of these in my next post.

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