Ann Maher Oct. 31, 2014, 12:43pm

While the electoral burden for judges seeking retention to office is higher than when they first go before voters - 60 percent versus anywhere north of 50 percent when contested - odds are in favor of an incumbent being retained.

That is, unless, a bunch of money and a drawn-out campaign are at work.

Case in point: Gordon Maag, Democrat, in 2004 was on the ballot in two places in the Fifth Judicial District, which includes the state's 37 southern-most counties. He ran against Lloyd Karmeier, Republican, for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court. He also sought retention to the Fifth District Appellate Court.

Maag lost both contests. He is the only appellate judge in Illinois who has lost a retention race since voters were first given that option in 1964.

He received 55.23 percent "Yes" votes  (284,597) to 44.77 percent "No"  votes (230,655) -  about 4.7 percentage points shy of the 60 percent threshold. More than 50,000 voters who cast a ballot in the Karmeier-Maag race did not cast a ballot on the Maag retention question, which are labeled by some as "under votes."

Karmeier beat Maag in the race for Supreme Court by a margin of 54.7 percent (309,521 votes) to Maag's 45.3 percent (256,339 votes). Karmeier won 29 of the 37 counties in the district. Karmeier, who is from Washington County, defeated Maag in Maag's home county - Madison County - by a margin of 57 to 43 percent.

The 2004 battle for the Supreme Court in sothern Illinois holds the record for the most expensive contested judicial race in the nation's history. A total of $9.3 million was spent - with both sides raising about equal amounts of money.

While it is unclear how much money was dedicated to the anti retention effort, negative advertising against Maag in the Supreme Court race spilled over to the retention question.

As Karmeier seeks a second 10-year term next week, he faces opposition from a group of attorneys who 10 years ago supported Maag for Supreme Court.

Approximately $2 million has been raised by those seeking to oust Karmeier, and about $1 million has been raised in support of Karmeier.

One difference between the campaigns of 2004 and 2014 is the amount of time voters have been exposed to messaging from both sides.

In 2004, it was a long, drawn-out battle. The attack against Karmeier this year did not materialize until two weekends before the election.

Retention rate results

In a review of retention races in the Third Judicial Circuit, Twentieth Judicial Circuit and Fifth Judicial District since 2004, the lowest recorded retention percentage - other than Maag in 2004 - came in 2010, when St. Clair County Chief Judge Baricevic was retained by a margin of 62.49 percent (65,252 votes).


Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Judge Robert Le Chien: 68.59 percent (92,102 votes)
Third Judicial Circuit
Judge Andreas Matoesian: 69.93 percent (77,449 votes)
Fifth District Appellate Court
Judge Terrence Hopkins: 66.96 percent (300,262 votes)
Judge Gordon Maag: 55.23 percent (284,597 votes)


Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Judge Jan Fiss: 74.76 percent (68,714 votes)
Judge Milton Wharton: 75.86 (70,693 votes)
Third Judicial Circuit
Judge Ann Callis: 73.66 percent (57,674 votes)
Judge John Knight: 69.77 percent (53,263 votes)
Judge Charles Romani: 70.94 percent (54,806 votes)


Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Judge James Campanella: 76.47 percent (109,586 votes)
Judge Dennis Doyle: 77.11 percent (110,240 votes)
Judge Annette Eckert: 79.58 percent (115,208 votes)
Judge Michael O'Malley: 78.21 percent (115,217 votes)
Fifth District Appellate Court
Judge Richard Goldenhersh: 73.74 percent (370,169 votes)


Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Judge John Baricevic: 62.49 percent (65,252 votes)
Judge Dennis Hatch: 66.92 percent (69,259 votes)
Judge Robert LeChien: 65.25 percent (67,767 votes)
Third Judicial Circuit
Judge Andreas Matoesian: 71.03 percent (55,543 votes)
Fifth District Appellate Court
Judge Thomas Welch: 68.84 percent (251,851 votes)


Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Judge Jan Fiss: 75.01 percent (110,319 votes)
Third Judicial Circuit
Judge Ann Callis: 68.57 percent (81,321 votes)
Judge Barbara Crowder: 63.2 percent (73,522 votes)
Judge Dave Hylla: 65.34 percent (75,118 votes)
Judge John Knight: 64.38 percent (74,212 votes)
Fifth District Appellate Court
Judge Melissa Chapman: 73.76 percent (370,011 votes)

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