#1 News Story: Karmeier wins costliest state SC race; Maag not retained

Ann Knef Dec. 28, 2004, 5:28am

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier

5th District Appellate Court Judge Clyde Kuehn

In 2004, a norm in political reporting was shattered.

Judicial race coverage, which typically never sees the light of mass media, chartered new territory in a high stakes, all-important race for Illinois state supreme court justice.

Land of Lincoln voters in the state's 37 southernmost counties, a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans, elected Washington County Circuit Judge Lloyd A. Karmeier, a Republican, to the Illinois Supreme Court on Nov. 2.

"The medical malpractice isssue was the most visible, most important factor in the election," said Mike Lawrence, director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois Unviersity at Carbondale. "But a sub-plot was the dominance of Madison County in the judiciary."

It was an expensive, bitter race. Reports range from $8 to $10 million spent on the campaign, making it the costliest state supreme court race in our nation's history.

Of the 37 counties in the district, Karmeier won 29.

And none were perhaps as critical as Democrat-dominated Madison County, where Karmeier won a stunning 57 percent of the vote.

Rival and Madison County native Gordon E. Maag was dosed with double jeopardy-- losing the high court race and as well as retention to his seat on the 5th Appellate Court bench.

Maag became the first appellate court judge in Illinois to lose retention since voters started voting on them in 1964. He received 55 percent "yes" votes, but needed 60 percent to keep his position on the bench.

"Maag probably would have been retained if that was the only place he appeared on the ballot," Lawrence said. "He lost because of the fallout of the Supreme Court race."


Next summer, the Illinois Supreme Court will appoint a successor to Maag who will serve until the general election in November 2006.

In the interim, former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Philip Rarick, who was replaced by Karmeier, recommended the appointment of Judge Clyde Kuehn to replace Maag on the 5th Judicial District Appellate Court.

Kuehn, a Belleville native, began the unexpired term Dec. 6 and will continue through July 7, 2005. Then, Justice Karmeier will recommend his replacement who will serve until December 2006.

Rarick said that he and Karmeier "conferred" on the matter of who would replace Maag before settling on Kuehn.

Ed Murnane, director of the the Illinois Civil Justice League, said he was "very comfortable" with the court's decision to appoint Judge Kuehn on a short-term basis.

"To the court's credit, and to Justice Rarick's credit, Justice-elect Karmeier was fully consulted and there will thus not be a vacancy on the Appellate Court at a busy time, nor will there be a 'midnight appointment' of a judge to override the wishes of the voters," Murnane said.

Kuehn's recent appointment marked his third judicial post. He was appointed a Circuit Court judge in 1994 and later to the Appellate Court in 1995 and again in 2002, replacing Rarick when he was appointed to replace Justice Moses Harrison on the Illinois Supreme Court.

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