St. Clair County Associate Judge Vincent Lopinot says he will need to raise $50,000 to fend off a challenge in the fall from Republican rival Ronald Duebbert.
The two are seeking election to the post currently held by Judge Stephen McGlynn, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Circuit Judge Michael O’Malley who retired in 2010.
Duebbert, a Belleville attorney, said he believes St. Clair County is controlled by the Democratic Party. But, he said he can win the election.
“The judges have been hand-picked by the party machine, and therefore they cannot be independent, and that is what we need,” he said. “That is why I decided to run.”
Duebbert recently contributed $20,000 to his campaign committee, and plans to contribute more.
He said the campaign could cost between $100,000-$200,000.
“I have many supporters who are acquaintances, conservative hunters and land-owners concerned that the Belleville Democratic Party machine has been running the place for over 40 years,” he said.
He stated that many people contribute to the Democratic Party because they are “frightened.”
“The difference is I will run, and people will contribute,” Duebbert said.
He said that the race is very much in play, particularly since the East St. Louis elections board may not be around to count votes in November.
East St. Louis voters will decide whether to disband the elections board in a referendum question on the March 20 primary ballot. If the board is dissolved, the St. Clair County Clerk would become the election authority for East St. Louis.
“I think there’s a very good chance that a Republican candidate can win St. Clair County,” he said.
Duebbert referenced the 2006 race between Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto, a Democrat, and attorney Paul Evans, a Republican currently from O’Fallon, who lost by less than 5,000 votes.
“Those 4,500 votes probably came from East St. Louis,” Duebbert said.
In an interview Tuesday, Lopinot, who is running on the Democratic ticket, said he would hold a fund-raiser in June or July to counter Duebbert.
Lopinot has been an associate judge in St. Clair County for 10 years. His father, Jerome Lopinot, is a former elected circuit judge.
Lopinot, who had presided over a traffic docket, inherited the court’s growing asbestos docket from Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson on Jan. 1.
He said there are 92 pending asbestos cases, most of which have been filed in the last two years.
He said St. Clair County’s asbestos docket is handled differently from Madison County’s vastly larger docket.
He schedules asbestos trials like any other trial.
“We don’t differentiate trials for asbestos,” Lopinot said. “They could be set for trial any week we have trials.”
“Really, we schedule asbestos cases like any other case with no special docket as far as trial is concerned,” Lopinot said. “The only thing we have is a particular day where we schedule asbestos cases for pre-trial. We have pre-trial docket for asbestos two times a month.”
Lopinot transferred 20 of his asbestos cases to St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto, since Russell Scott, his brother-in-law, works for the Greensfelder Law Firm branch in Swansea, which defends asbestos cases.
Scott is a senior litigation officer and co-manager of the firm’s southern Illinois practice group. He also is Lopinot’s campaign chairman.
According to records on file with the Illinois State Board of Elections, Lopinot has not yet raised any funds.