Updates to Legislative, Judicial, and Cook County State's Attorney fundraising

59th District Senate Race Likely to Break Record

As the 2008 General Election campaigns head into the final weekend, candidates in hotly contested races have reported record amounts of campaign fundraising. Although most legislative races are uncontested, the top ten legislative races, those that appear winnable to both parties, have reported almost $12 million in receipts to date. And the race for the 59th Senate Seat in far Southern Illinois is posed to break the old record for spending in a state Senate campaign.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project have also examined contributions in state judicial races and the Cook County State's Attorney. This analysis found a handful of trial court races that are likely to see over $100,000 in combined spending. The only seat on the state Supreme Court and all three seats on the appellate courts are uncontested, but several circuit (trial) court races have reported large receipts.

Legislative Races

As usual there have been large infusions of money from political committees controlled by the four legislative leaders. But because Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, will retire soon, several contenders for that position have raised more than $1 Million and they are using that money to make contributions to the campaigns of other Democrats seeking to retain or win seats in the Senate

Top Senate races include:

(1) In the 59th District, Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, reported $1,175,600 while his opponent, Republican Ken Burzynsksi of Benton reported $840,400, for combined $2,016,000. This race is well within striking distance of the spending record for a Senate seat. The previous record was set in this same District in 2006, when Sen. Forby and then-challenger Ron Summers combined to spend $2,465,000.

(2) In the 42nd District, Republican Terri Ann Wintermute of Bolingbrook, reported $789,500 while Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, reported $782,300 while her opponent, for a combined $1,571,700.

(3) In the 26th District, Republican Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington reported $796,800 while Democrat Bill Gentes of Round Lake reported $173,200 for a combined $970,000 in the race for the open seat left by the retiring William Peterson, Republican of Long Grove.

(4) In the 45th District, appointed Republican Sen. Tim Bivins of Dixon reported $760,000 while Democrat Marty Mulcahey of Galena reported $178,700 for a combined $938,700 in the race for the open seat left by the retiring Sen. Todd Sieben, Republican of Geneseo.

(5) In the 33rd District, Sen. Dan Kotowski, D- Park Ridge, reported $658,900 while his opponent, Republican Michael Sweeney of Arlington Heights reported $247,400 for a combined $906,300.

Top House Races include:

(1) In the 85th District, Rep. Brent Hassert, R-Romeoville, reported $778,200 while his opponent, Democrat Emily Klunk-McAsey of Lockport reported $510,100 for a combined $1,288,200.

(2) In the 92nd District, Democrat Jehan Gordon of Peoria reported $636,200 while Republican Joan Gordon Krupa of Peoria Heights reported $584,900 for a combined $1,221,100 in the race for the open seat left by Republican Aaron Schock of Peoria, now a candidate for U.S. Congress.

(3) In the 69th District, Challenger Greg Tuite, D-Rockford, reported $578,700 while incumbent Republican Ron Wait of Hinkley reported $417,000 for a combined $995,700.

(4) In the 96th District, Democrat Dianne McGuire of Naperville reported $534,800 while Republican Darlene Senger of Naperville reported $386,800 for a combined $921,700 in the race for the open seat left by the retiring Republican Joe Dunn of Naperville.

(5) In the 17th District, Rep. Beth Coulson, Republican of Glenview, reported $458,400 while Democrat Daniel Biss of Evanston reported $352,700 for a combined $811,100.

One candidate in one race has reported receipts of more than $1 million. Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, reported having $1.7 million available, including $479,400 raised since July 1, and $113,500 of that in the last week alone. Rep. Hoffman's Republican opponent, Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon, reported $305,400. Whether this race sets a record or even crosses the million dollar spending mark depends entirely on Hoffman's assessment of how much he is willing to spend to hold on to the seat.

Judicial Races

Circuit Court races have traditionally seen smaller fundraising than legislative contests. Fewer interest groups have gotten involved, and the size of the districts and number of voters has typically been smaller. Because the size of circuits varies so widely around the state, it is difficult to draw comparisons between one race and another, and it is difficult to say what the record would be for spending in these races. In the 2008 General Election, the Circuit Court races with the most fundraising include:

(1) In the 16th Circuit in Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties, Republican Patricia Piper Golden of Dundee reported $114,700 while Democrat John Noverini of Carpentersville reported $105,100 for a combined $219,800.

(2) In the 2nd Circuit in southeast Illinois, Republican David Overstreet of Mt. Vernon reported $132,600 while Democrat L. James Hanson of Mt. Vernon reported $40,900 for a combined $173,400.

(3) In the Cook County 12th Subcircuit Devlin vacancy, Democrat Pamela Lora of Mt. Prospect reported $102,500 while Republican Laura Morask of Park Ridge reported $56,800 for a combined $159,400.

(4) In the 1st Circuit in the southernmost part of Illinois, Democrat Steve Stone of Cartersville reported $81,000 while Republican James R. "Randy" Moore of Cartersville reported $33,700 for a combined $114,600.

(5) In the Cook County 4th Subcircuit, Democrat Patrick Rogers of Western Springs reported $87,900 while Republican Maureen Masterson-Pulia of Westchester reported $9,900 for a combined $97,800.

What's striking about judicial races this year is that none of the contests for county-wide seats in Cook County -- one for Supreme Court, two for Appellate Court, and nine for Circuit Court -- are even contested. This tactical retreat by the Republicans (and Greens) recalls the 2000 election, when a similar decision in the Supreme Court race allowed the Democrats to send resources to their candidate in the nominally Republican Third District. The $700,000 infusion, considered massive at the time, helped elect a Supreme Court Justice.

In these 2008 contests, we see the same dynamic playing out, as well-funded Democrats are running strong in the nominally Republican 4th and 12th subcircuits. There are no similarly well-funded Republicans or Greens in largely Democratic subcircuits. A change in campaign finance laws, to offer either public financing options or incentives for small donations, may alter this dynamic, which deprives most voters in Cook County of any real choice when voting for judges.

Cook County State's Attorney

The hottest race in Cook County appears to be for the State's Attorney's office, left open by the retirement of Democrat Dick Devine. Democrat Anita Alvarez of River Forest has reported $736,000 in receipts while Republican Tony Peraica of Riverside has reported $179,400 for a combined $915,400.

This report is the fourth in a series during the final weeks of the 2008 General Election campaign season. Earlier reports covered contribution totals, top donors to legislative races and the constitutional convention referendum, and giving by contenders to the Senate presidency, are all available at www.ilcampaign.org. ICPR and the Sunshine Project do not endorse candidates and have not taken a position on the con-con question.