The Democratic Party of Cook County has endorsed its candidates for the judicial benches in the Cook County Circuit Court and Illinois First District Appellate Court, and party officials said they believe the "diverse" group represents the region well.
Receiving the backing of a major political party is always significant and meaningful. While it does not guarantee victory, it does create credibility and provides a solid footing into the elections.
“Any candidate we endorse has a high chance of being elected. It is because of the demographics of Cook County, which is mostly Democratic,” said Manuel Galvan, press secretary for the Cook County Democratic Party.
When asked about their selection, Galvan praised their diversity.
“It is diverse group of people: men, women, young, old, white, Asian, Hispanic and black," he said. "They represent the area well, and we feel the voters are more confident with candidates who truly represent them.”
Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios agreed.
“Our slate is an extremely diverse ticket, drawing from the suburbs as well as Chicago and individuals from various ethnicities,” Berrios said in a press release.
Party committees spent two days assessing, debating, and listening to local, state, and federal candidates speak on behalf of particular candidates' potential and other reasons they should receive support ahead of the March 15 primary elections.
“The process is very intricate,” Galvan said of the selection process.
Among the party’s judicial endorsements, it has backed eight candidates for the Cook County Circuit Court and two for election to the 1st District Appellate Court.
Forty-two individuals sought circuit judge endorsements. Only eight were selected. The eight judicial candidates receiving the party's endorsements for the Cook County Circuit Court bench include Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Maureen O. Hannon, Circuit Judge Aleksandra Nikolich Gillespie, Circuit Judge Rossana Patricia Fernandez, Circuit Judge Devlin J. Schoop, Circuit Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., Circuit Judge Alison C. Conlon, Circuit Judge Daniel P. Duffy and attorney Brendan A. O’Brien.
In the event that another vacancy occurs on the bench between now and the primary, the party also designated five alternates who could fill those spots.
Of the endorsed candidates on the list for circuit judge, O’Brien has a history and legacy with the Democrats stretching back to his grandfather, Donald O’Brien Sr., who served as judge for 20 years, and his father, Donald O’Brien Jr., who received the party’s endorsement during his campaign for Cook County circuit judge in the early 1990s. He aspires to carry the tradition come next year.
For two vacancies on the 1st District Appellate Court, the party endorsed Appellate Justice Bertina E. Lampkin and Circuit Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke.
Lampkin was assigned by the Supreme Court to the 1st District bench in 2009. The high court shifted her to the elected seat vacated by the January 2014 death of former Justice Patrick J. Quinn.
“Any of these candidates have the potential to be a rising star,” said Galvan of each selection.
Other candidates range from seasoned jurists, such as Lampkin, who has been a judge for 28 years, 22 of them in the trial court, to those, like O’Brien, with no bench experience, who has spent 16 of his 19 years as a lawyer at Hinshaw & Culbertson and is a partner in that firm.