So far so good: No negative campaigning in the 5th

Ann Knef Oct. 12, 2006, 8:03am

While neither judicial candidate in the Fifth Appellate District race appears to have broken a pledge not to go negative, the real question is whether third party interests will in the final weeks before election.

A spokesman from Appellate Court Judge Steve McGlynn's campaign said theirs is a positive one.

"We signed a pledge and the campaign is going to abide by it and so is Judge McGlynn," he said.

McGlynn and his challenger, Saline County Circuit Judge Bruce Stewart, both signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices months ago. In essence it holds the candidates accountable to running attack-free campaigns.

A message was left at Stewart's campaign office seeking comment, but a call had not been returned by press time.

In the real world of high stakes elections, pledges don't matter so much. Candidates in the highly contentious and most expensive state supreme court race in the nation's history -- Gordon Maag and Lloyd Karmeier -- also signed and abided by clean campaign pledges.

The drumbeat of negative TV commercials, radio spots and direct mail pieces that highlighted that race came via "in-kind" campaign contributions.

Mike Lawrence, director of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said he hoped that the type and intensity of campaigning conducted in the 2004 Illinois Supreme Court race doesn't arise in this appellate court race.

"It erodes confidence in courts," Lawrence said.

"There's a couple of weeks to go, we'll have to see if either side goes negative," he said.

Lawrence also expressed concern about candidates taking positions on matters that may come before the court.

"In the supreme court race I don't think either candidate was quite as blunt on issues and positions as in this judicial race," Lawrence said.

He believes voters in 2004 did have a sense of where judicial candidates likely stood on issues.

"But at least they didn't commit themselves," he said. "I have been concerned there is an evolution of court races into contests that look more and more like legislative races."

He said the "disturbing" trend is occurring in other states as well as Illinois.

He said interest groups in Illinois' supreme court race were really concerned about influencing legislative outcomes.

"We saw the victory of Karmeier in a district that was solidly Democrat send a strong signal to the legislature and governor," Lawrence said.

A Karmeier victory led to the approval of medical malpractice legislation by a Democratically controlled General Assembly and a Democratic governor, he said.

"It should cause us to reform how we select review court judges," Lawrence said.

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