Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tie Vote of Illinois Board Allows St. Clair County Judges to Stay on Democratic Ballot, but Critic Promises Court Appeal

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tie Vote of Illinois Board Allows St. Clair County Judges to Stay on Democratic Ballot, but Critic Promises Court Appeal

Article excerpt

BELLEVILLE * Three St. Clair County circuit judges can remain as Democratic candidates in an unusual strategy to keep their jobs, compliments of a tie vote Wednesday of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

But the dispute isn't over. The Belleville man who put a complaint before the board promises a court appeal. And the politics of it all are likely to get livelier.

Circuit Judges John Baricevic, Robert Haida and Robert LeChien submitted resignations effective Dec. 4, 2016, and filed as candidates in the March 15 Democratic primary to fill their own future vacancies. By so doing, they would avoid having to go before voters in November in the traditional retention process, which requires 60 percent approval to stay on the bench.

The judges face no opposition in the primary. Haida has no Republican opponent in November. Baricevic and LeChien do, but simple majorities win in the general election. If they succeed Nov. 8, they would return to work at the courthouse two days after their resignations take effect.

The tactic is highly unusual. The Illinois Constitution outlines how circuit judges stand for retention every six years after they are first elected through partisan campaigns. But the constitution says they "may" seek retention, which is the word upon which the three judges base their strategy.

"Our position is sustained," Baricevic said Wednesday of the board vote. "Four-to-four is good enough for me."

Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto successfully used the strategy in 2006.

The eight-member election board split on party lines during its meeting in Chicago, with four Democrats approving the strategy and four Republicans opposed. They voted on a motion supporting the three judges. Jim Tenuto, assistant director for the board, said the tie defeated the motion, ending the issue and leaving the judges in the primary.

The board also voted 6-2 to ask Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, for her opinion.

Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook, who also is the likely Republican nominee for St. Clair County circuit clerk, had filed the complaint seeking to force the judges into seeking retention. …

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