Madison County Associate Judge Kyle Napp has raised about 23 times more money than her Republican opponent, Thomas Burkart, during the same three month period in their race to be circuit judge, records show.
In her quarterly report filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections last month, Napp, a Democrat, reported receiving $46,525 in campaign contributions between April 1 and June 30.
Burkart, a Hamel attorney running as a Republican, reported receiving $2,000 in donations during the same time period.
Napp and Burkart are vying to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Circuit Judge Charles Romani.
Both candidates told the Madison County Record in May that they didn’t expect their race would garner the same level of attention that two local judicial races received in the 2006 election cycle, which was the last time there were contested battles for circuit judgeships in the county.
In 2006, nearly $1 million was spent on a pair of circuit judge races that pitted Democrats Dave Hylla and Barbara Crowder against Republicans Don Weber and James Hackett. Hylla and Crowder won their elections and both face retention in November.
Also in May, Burkart vowed not to accept any donations from lawyers or special interest groups advocating for tort reform. Records show Burkart has kept true to his campaign pledge while Napp, who did not make the same promise, has received thousands of dollars in donations from area lawyers and law firms.
Burkart’s campaign committee reported receiving two $1,000 contributions in its quarterly report. Both of the donations were from John Gerdes, a retired teacher from Lawrenceville.
Records show that Napp’s committee received 116 itemized individual donations totaling $36,150, as well as $10,375.18 in non-itemized donations.
Out of the itemized contributions, at least $6,000 came in the form of separate $500 donations from plaintiffs’ lawyers at Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides & Barnerd, an asbestos firm in Alton, records show.
Attorneys at that firm who contributed to Napp’s campaign include John Barnerd, Nicholas Angelides, Derek Brandt, Perry Browder, Randy Cohn, Brian Cooke, Myles Epperson, Amy Garrett, Ted Gianaris, Christopher Guinn, Shane Hampton, Trent Miracle and Timothy Thompson.
In addition to attorneys at the Simmons firm, Barry Julian and Randy Gori of Gori, Julian & Associates in Edwardsville, also an asbestos firm, each contributed $500 to Napp’s campaign. Their law firm also donated $500.
Other Edwardsville firms that donated between $200 and $500 to Napp’s committee include Becker, Schroader & Chapman; the Law Offices of Michael R. Bilbrey; Steiger Law Offices; Tor Hoermann Law; Knapp, Ohl &Green; and Lucco, Brown, Threlkeld & Dawson.
Several other firms, including the Cates Law Firm in Swansea and Schoen, Walton, Telken & Foster in East Alton, also contributed to her campaign. And along with more than a dozen area attorneys, Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis and Judges Tom Chapman, David Grounds and Clarence Harrison donated to Napp’s committee.
Burkart in May predicted that he would not be able to outspend Napp and based on the most recent reports filed with the state Board of Elections, it appears Burkart’s prediction is proving true.
Napp’s committee reported spending $22,518.51 on fundraising, consulting and other campaign-related materials compared to the $2,461.79 in expenditures reported by Burkart’s committee during the same three month period.
Records show that Napp’s committee started the reporting period with $2,700 and had $28,897.44 in its campaign coffer as of June 30.
Burkart’s committee began the period with $459.42 and ended it with $714.57.
Napp did not immediately return a message seeking comment today.
Burkart said today that his campaign promise not to take money from lawyers stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. Massey, a ruling he said convinced him that judges need to do everything they can to avoid the appearance that campaign contributions could affect their decisions.
Because Burkart doesn’t expect to raise or spend as much money as his opponent, he said he hopes his grassroots efforts will pay off.
Burkart, who recently held a fundraiser at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said he hopes “regular folks” will show him support with smaller donations that can add up.
“If need be, I’ll spend my own money to make it happen,” he said.
In addition, Burkart said he would like the chance to debate his opponent and discuss issues that are affecting the local legal community, like recent changes to the asbestos docket.