Tuesday is primary day–which means, in Chicago, it’s a de facto election for many positions. Many. Some of these are getting tremendous amounts of coverage, like the race for state’s attorney, which has made national news.
But there are lots of other important choices that don’t get as much attention. Judges, for instance: while the state’s attorney can do a great deal to shape how justice is pursued in Cook County, a lot of it comes down to the people on the bench. And because retention elections—where voters can remove judges—get virtually zero attention, being a judge in Cook County is all but a lifetime appointment. It’s been more than 25 years since a judge was not retained in Cook County, and that was probably due to a freakish wave of anti-incumbent sentiment. The judges elected on Tuesday could be there for decades, and you could find yourself in front of one.
In the absence of deep dives into all the offices at stake, what we have are shorthand recommendations. It’s a tradeoff between scope and depth, but don’t let it dissuade you from paying attention and pulling the lever. Here’s a long list of sources to consider; let’s start with judges, since it’s opaque, but important. (Once you’ve made your choices, I’ve found Ballot Ready to be a handy place to store them; my ballot has 27 different races, so putting them in one place helps.)
Chicago Council of Lawyers report on judicial candidates—short resumes, reports on knowledge of the law and temperament, and recommendations (here’s the summary). This is the one that my former Reader colleague Steve Bogira likes the most, and he’s written a book about the court system in Chicago.
Chicago Bar Association Green Guide—resumes, recommendations.
Illinois State Bar Association primary narratives—short resumes of each candidate and recommendations.
Alliance of Bar Associations worksheet—a summary of recommendations from 11 different bar associations.
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Maybe start with an old post by Steve Vance about, you know, what it is. The job requires a unique skill set, since the MWRD’s work crosses engineering and environmental policy (and Chicago’s tools for dealing with water are among the most immense public engineering projects in the world), so that’s what endorsers are looking for.
The Sun-Times—a nicely detailed set of recommendations that gets into the candidates’ favored policies.
The Sierra Club—an interest group, but one that has to work with the MWRD on a regular basis.
Cook County Clerk
While the state’s attorney’s race has the headlines, the race for clerk is another in which the controversial yet seemingly bulletproof incumbent has seen her power within the local establishment wane. In this case, it was Dorothy Brown, who lost her endorsement from the Cook County Democratic Party back in October after she and her husband became part of a federal probe. But unlike the state’s attorney’s race, it hasn’t gotten much attention; it never does.
Nothing’s yet come of the probe, but it’s been a challenge in Brown’s third primary since taking office. The Tribune, Sun-Times, and Daily Herald have all come out in favor of her opponent, Jacob Meister, an attorney and founder of an LGBTQ advocacy organization. Meister’s friendship with Deb Mell (33rd ward alderman and daughter of former alderman Richard Mell) has helped him gain endorsements from both progressive and establishment politicians, despite never having held elected office. Want more? Chicago Tonight hosted a forum with Brown, Meister, and Alderman Michelle Harris, the third candidate.
If you’ve read this far it’s probably on your radar. Alvarez is a powerful incumbent, but Kim Foxx swept the endorsements and comes into Tuesday within closing distance of Alvarez.