(Editor's note: Illinois Review is not endorsing in this IL GOP primary race)
By Nancy Thorner -
This is a tumultuous year in Illinois for Republican politics with billionaire Ken Griffin pouring tens of millions of dollars into supporting IL GOP gubernatorial primary candidate Richard Irvin.
While most eyes have been focused on the gubernatorial primary, the real opportunity for Republicans to finally break from the present one-party dictatorship in Illinois is not through the governorship. Even a near-miraculous defeat of billionaire Pritzker is not going to lead to Republican control of the legislature given the latest Democrat gerrymander, particularly in the Illinois Senate where the Democrats now have a 41 to 18 super-majority.
Illinois Supreme Court vacancies
Two seats on the seven-member Illinois Supreme Court will be filled by voters in the 2022 elections. In addition, Justice Rita Garman, who holds the seat for the 4th District, announced today that she will retire effective July 1, 2022.
In Illinois, justices and judges and Illinois courts are chosen in partisan elections. Illinois is one of eight States that chooses judges in this way.
IL Supreme Court District #3
The surest way to check the Democrats' political control in Illinois is for Republicans to win the two open Illinois Supreme Court districts this fall. The third district used to be represented by Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, but he failed to reach the 60% mark needed to be retained in office in 2020.
While it is unlikely any Republican elected from Southern Illinois (3rd Supreme Court district) would be liberal on such issues as abortion, gun control and redistricting, it’s quite possible that type of Republican could be elected from the 2nd Supreme Court district.
As for downstate Illinois, it is trending more and more Republican. For example, Congressman Mike Bost received 60.4% of the vote, Congressman Darin LaHood 70%, while newcomer Congresswoman Mary Miller received an astonishing 73.4% two years ago.
Given the terrible trio of Biden, Pritzker and Lightfoot, plus the usual off-year election sag of a party with an unpopular President, the Supreme Court District 3 open seat is definitely winnable for Republicans.
IL Supreme Court District #2
As it now stands, the 2nd District primary race could be between a conservative outsider and a more establishment type. In short, the 2nd District primary could even determine the direction of a nominally Republican Illinois Supreme Court, especially with the unexpected, sudden retirement of Republican Justice Rita Garman.
The 2nd Supreme Court District seat is on the ballot due to the retirement of former Chicago Bears star Justice Robert Thomas. Thomas won as a Republican and, except for closely divided Lake County, the rest of the district includes enough solid Republican counties to ensure that the primary results will go on to reflect the winner.
For your consideration, information about District 2 Supreme Court primary candidates, Judge Daniel Shanes and Judge A. Noverini, is provided below.
Judge Daniel Shanes
Judge Daniel Shanes has the endorsements of former State Comptroller Leslie Munger (appointed by Bruce Rauner and a fervent Irvin supporter), 10 Republican legislators, and most of the major Republican officials of Lake County, the largest county in the district.
Judge Shanes was first selected by the circuit judges to serve as an associate judge in 2007 and was appointed in 2010 by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill a circuit court vacancy. Shanes was rated highly recommended by the Lake County Bar Association
Selected by judges, appointed by a Democrat Supreme Court, and highly recommended by the same Lake County Bar, Judge Shanes was also on its Board of Directors (2011-2017).
Even so, Judge Shanes has never held elective office, not even as a precinct committeeman, nor does Shanes have any business experience or government experience outside of being judge.
As such, Shanes' held views on issues that Republicans consider important have never been tested in the political arena. Accordingly, there is no certainty as to how Shanes would vote on issues should he win the District 2 Supreme Court primary.
Judge A. Noverini
By contrast, Judge Shanes' opponent Judge A. Noverini has the following credentials:
Republican precinct committeeman (1996-2006).
Chairman of the Dundee Township Republicans in 2004 and in 2006.
Kane County Board – Elected 2002 and 2006.
Kane County Forest Preserve Commissioner – Elected 2002 and 2006.
Chairman – Finance and Budget Committee – Kane County.
Member – Criminal Justice Steering Committee – Kane County.
Member – Judicial and Public Safety Committee – Kane County.
Member – Public Building Commission – Kane County.
Village Trustee – Village of Carpentersville – Elected – 1999.
Member Zoning Board of Appeals – Village of Carpentersville.
Director – Parkway Bank and Trust Company.
Director – American Heartland Bank and Trust Company.
Noverini as the non-establishment Republican?
Following is information that notes why Noverini, in contrast to Shanes, is not the usual “moderate” establishment Republican.
The first reference given clarifies how Noverini was initially elected to be a judge in 2008.
The information cited below came from a reply Noverini made to an astute and politically knowledgeable individual, who is likewise a trusted friend:
The sub-circuit, relevant to Judge Noverini, was gerrymandered to make it impossible for a Republican to win. Judge Noverini was told by the Kane County Republicans that he was too conservative and that they were putting up a pro-choice Republican for the newly opened Circuit Court spot.
Judge Noverini's Republican base not only suggested that he run as a Democrat but also stuck by him. Noverini was never a Democrat. He might have ran as a Democrat, but he has always been a conservative.
The Kane County Chair of the Democrats was pro-life, unlike today, when Democrats who are conservative on any issue are few and far between. Judge Noverini's conservative judicial record is why in the 2014 and 2020 nonpartisan retention elections he was overwhelmingly retained by the voters.
By far the biggest reason Novarini is not the usual go along to get along judge is his fight with the Illinois Bar and its ratings system, as noted here. Per the headline in the Washington Times: “Bar association threatens judge with ‘Not Recommended’ rating over ‘political’ questionnaire. Conservative judge running for seat on Illinois Supreme Court.
Here is one question Judge Noverini refused to answer: “What efforts, if any, have you made in your community to include people of a different race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, or sexual orientation than you as a lawyer and/or judge in the legal profession?”
Unfortunately, as Judge Noverini found out, not responding meant Noverini was “not recommended” by the Illinois Bar, even after 14 years as an elected judge who was overwhelmingly retained in 2014 and 2020.
Importance of the Judicial branch
The Shanes/Noverini contest could be the race to watch, as the Judicial branch is the only branch of government Illinois Republicans have a good chance to win after the 2022 election. The present alignment is four democrats vs. three Republican.
Issues such as abortion, gun rights, mask mandates, business and labor issues, and other major issues are sure to come before the court over the next few years.
The Shanes/Noverini contest could likewise represents a key struggle for control of the entire Illinois Republican Party — consequential given the length of term of a judge before he faces the voters again — and also why who wins may be more important in the long term than who is elected governor, especially if it is Pritzker once again.