Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Or you could just run? More suggestions... for what they're worth

This has turned into a series. So be it.

A commenter yesterday cautioned me against giving away "tradecraft" for free. Tradecraft seems a rather exalted term for the reminiscences and suggestions I'm sharing here.

But, if you find these posts, or any posts on this site, useful or entertaining, there is a Paypal button in the blog Sidebar that you can use at your convenience. If you're reading this on your phone you will have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and push the "View Web Version" button in order to get to the Sidebar. Thank you.


So you want to be a judge, eh? Before you ‘just run,’ browse through the archives here (links to all posts can be found in the blog Sidebar). You will find examples of:

  • People with ‘good’ ballot names who did not win;
  • People with glowing, unanimously positive bar ratings who did not win;
  • People who spent a lot of money and did not win;
  • People who received ‘big’ endorsements (e.g., the Tribune, or the Chicago Federation of Labor) and did not win;
  • People who received Supreme Court appointments to the bench and did not win;
  • People who were slated by the Democratic Party and did not win.

Indeed, you will find examples of some people who fit within two or more of the above categories and did not win.

So, does it follow that you should not worry about any of these supposed advantages and ‘just run’?

No. Hell, no.

This is a free country, of course, and you can just toss your hat in the ring and see what happens. You might win.

You might win the Powerball jackpot with a single $2 ticket, too. (This has not worked for me so far, however.)

And the archives will reveal that there are also instances where someone has won without spending a lot of money, without first getting appointed, without bothering with bar evaluations, and without apparent support from any political party.

But you, judicial wannabes, are lawyers and, hopefully, good ones. You know the value of preparation. While there have been stories of lawyers picking up a file for the first time in the morning and winning the trial in the afternoon, these tales often crumble, at least a bit, on close examination. I remember hearing a story once, 40 years ago perhaps, about a young lawyer who was handed a garden-variety PI file for the first time on Monday morning and told he was on trial. By Friday, a runaway jury had hit his client with a million dollar verdict -- but it supposedly made his reputation: Insurance companies figured he must have been a really hotshot trial lawyer because he was entrusted with such a “big case” so early in his career. They started sending him files directly, allowing him to set up his own firm.

Readers with agricultural backgrounds may have heard analogous tales of farmers falling into pig slop who got up smelling of roses. Who knows? Maybe those stories are true, too.

One thing you should notice when you peruse the archives here is that, many times, the persons winning election were not making their first race. Sometimes their bids were in consecutive election cycles; sometimes several years passed between their races. Sometimes people who lost a number of election bids reached the bench through the associate judge process. There’s no one formula; if there was, I’d have used it.

The biggest single mistake I made was in not conditioning those closest to me, my family, my friends, my business associates, to the idea that getting on the bench is, for the unconnected at least, a long-term process. I used up Lake Mead-sized reservoirs of good will and commitment on my maiden voyage in 1994 when I should have prepared all around me for the idea that my ignominious and, in hindsight, inevitable defeat was in fact a victory: Though I was a nobody that nobody had sent, I qualified for the ballot (despite all the obstacles that exist to prevent that), got decent bar ratings, and thereafter got all the way to the finish line without embarrassing myself or those I hold dear.

But in 1994, not knowing any better, I remember how embarrassed I felt, how devastated and embarrassed, when a friend called with results from the 47th Ward (on the opposite end of the 10th Subcircuit from where I live). In some precincts I had one vote, or two. In many, I had none at all. Shattering as this was for me, it was so much harder on my friends and especially on my wife, all of whom had worked so hard. I did not understand, then, what we’d accomplished together, and I could not find words of comfort or cheer.

In 1996, as you saw yesterday, I ran on personal momentum and desperation. I did not ‘build’ in any sense on what we’d done together in 1994. And I ran alone.

So, take heed wannabe judges: Run in 2022, but with 2024... or 2026... or 2028 in mind. Tell those around you that you are learning, together, how to run in 2022. In 2024, you’ll build on the experience you gain this cycle -- and, if lightning does strike this time, and you win, your loved ones will forgive you for being a poor prophet. But it does not necessarily work the other way around.

Having decided to run, and having accepted the reality that it may be a long haul, what should you do next?

If you’ve visited this site at all, you presumably know that you need to find, and lock up, the services of a qualified elections attorney at the earliest possible date. I don’t care if you think you’re the best lawyer since Darrow -- I don’t care if you are the best lawyer since Darrow -- you need an election law specialist to advise you. The Illinois Election Code is chock full of traps for the unwary and unspecialized. I am not an election lawyer. But find one. Soon. Even if you spend money on nothing else, incur this one expense.

You should also review, and purge, your social media sites.

I do not mean shut them down. If such a drastic step is really warranted, perhaps you should reconsider your interest in, and fitness for, judicial service.

I always tell people that you should put nothing on the Internet that would give you pause if it were read back from the pulpit by your pastor. Hopefully, you have engaged with the Internet on similar terms already. But... just possibly... on one or two occasions... perhaps... you got into flame wars with people you didn’t like in high school and really don’t like now. Not that your pastor would object to your opinions -- let us stipulate that all your opinions are sound -- but consider whether the language you used was ‘judicial.’ If not, purge those posts now, before announcing your ambitions, lest someone doing ‘research’ on you find and preserve them first.

Consider also whether you might scrub some of your opinions from your sites. No matter what opinions you hold, however mainstream, there may be someone who disagrees. You may be thrilled, as I am, by the revival of space exploration. I could watch videos of SpaceX landing its first stage boosters all day long. I’m following the Perseverance Rover Twitter account. But some bar evaluator may strongly believe that we should stay out of space until all our problems here on Earth are solved. I realize that none of this will come up in Traffic Court. But will the evaluator find fault with your enthusiasm and doom your rating with that group accordingly? Better to be bland. Remember, you are striving to become a professional neutral.

Pictures of your pets are probably fine. Pictures of your adorable children, too. The occasional sunset. But, will those pictures of you and your buds bending your elbows in a tavern, or smoking cigars at a tailgate party, be subject to misinterpretation?

I am a very mediocre photographer. But, for posts here I have, from time to time, pulled out my camera phone to take a picture or two of some of the attendees at an event. You should see how quickly people ditch their refreshments! They are not being prudes; they are merely being prudent. Profit by their example.

Use your social media to boost your campaign – even before anyone knows you’re running. When you attend an event, pose for pictures with any prominent person who will hold still long enough. Pose with the sponsor. Pose with someone (no selfies). Post these pictures. Name the people in your pictures; they may “like” your posts and may “share” or “retweet” or whatever. There may be quite a few votes and maybe even campaign donors lurking among your Facebook “friends” and LinkedIn contacts. Control your own image and start building your brand.

There’s more to talk about, but we’ll take that up in a future post. Meanwhile... start browsing... and purging.


Anonymous said...

Trade craft for free yet again. I have created a monster.


Anonymous said...

Damn Jack! Why don’t you just blast the name of the certain countywide Irish female who checks off all six of your bullet points who lost to someone who just ran last cycle.

Anonymous said...

When will Lori Lightfoot be hosting her endorsement session?

Anonymous said...

Election lawyer? Why would we need lawyers, Jack? Spoon feed us, pretty please.

Anonymous said...

Or you could just sink.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service Mr. Leyhane. I would vote for you.

Mini Me Tim Evans

Anonymous said...

Will Part 4 of the series have a list of the most common campaign hustles?

Anonymous said...

Run Like The Police Are Chasing You.

Anonymous said...

The fickle finger of election strategies!