CHICAGO – If you're a Republican qualified to run for an elected judge or court official position, the party isn't exactly looking for you, but they also won't turn you away.
"We will certainly slate any qualified candidates who approach us," Chicago GOP Chairman Chris Cleveland said in an email interview. "But it hasn't been a recruiting priority."
Indeed, countywide, the Republican Party to date has fielded only five candidates for judge, and just one candidate for countywide office, Diane S. Shapiro, who is seeking the post of Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court.
Shapiro, 60, of Chicago, is running for the circuit clerk position for a third time. She has never been elected. According to her campaign materials, she has more than 30 years of experience serving in the courts and Cook County government, including stints in the county's Recorder of Deeds and Sheriff's offices. While not a lifelong Republican - Shapiro served more than 20 years as Democrat Party Precinct Captain in the 50th, 44th and 45th Wards - she now is in her second term as the Republican Committeeman for Chicago's 46th Ward. She intends to oppose incumbent Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, who won the Democratic Party's nomination in the March 15 primary election.
Republican candidates in general traditionally have had a rough time in Cook County political races but judicial candidates seem to face especially difficult races, Cleveland said. This difficulty is reflected, in part, in the number of candidates who even declare for judicial races from each party. While the Democratic Party has fielded candidates in all of the 11 vacant Cook County Circuit judge posts and 14 of the 16 judicial subcircuit positions, the GOP has not slated anyone to seek any of the circuit judge positions, or any of the other 11 subcircuit bench seats.
Republican judicial candidates include: In the 12th Subcircuit, which includes large sections of Northfield, Wilmette, Maine, Elk Grove and New Trier townships in the north and northwest suburbs, Steve Kozicki, of Prospect Heights; Thomas William Flannigan, of Winnetka; David Studenroth, of Glenview and James Leonard Allegretti, of Park Ridge; and, in the 13th Subcircuit, Kevin O'Donnell, of Park Ridge.
Democrats placed candidates Marguerite Anne Quinn, Janet Cronin Mahoney and James Edward Hanlon Jr. on the November general election ballot in the 12th Subcircuit.
The GOP judicial candidates rank among the very few Republican candidates running for judicial or court offices, Cleveland said. And that is something that isn't likely to change soon, he said.
"In down-ballot, low-visibility races, party affiliation matters a lot more," Cleveland said. "When people actually focus on a race, Republicans win. But few voters know the candidates who are running for judge, so in Chicago Democrat candidates have an advantage."