Fifth Appellate Court race gets feisty

Ann Knef Nov. 2, 2006, 5:15am


So long clean campaign pledges.

A dispute over which campaign went negative first erupted Thursday between judicial candidates in southern Illinois' Fifth Appellate District, Justice Steve McGlynn and Judge Bruce Stewart.

"Judge Bruce Stewart was the first candidate for the appellate court to wage a negative campaign – and then he falsely claims Judge Steve McGlynn was the first to attack," said Jimmy Morani, McGlynn's campaign manager.

Morani was responding to a press release issued earlier in the day by Stewart's campaign claiming McGlynn was actually the first candidate to go negative through "misleading" advertising.

Stewart says in a press release, "Steve McGlynn and his allies have been the first to go negative in this campaign with misleading and hypocritical advertising attacking me and my character."

"The ads criticize me, along with other Democrats, for taking contributions from trial lawyers and insinuating that their contributions will impact my decisions as a judge.

"I am stunned by the audacity of these groups condemning my contributions, when Steve McGlynn and his allies have taken nearly $2 million in money from Washington, D.C. special interest groups."

But Morani said Stewart's campaign, which has advocated for clean campaigns from the beginning, pulled the first punches. He cited a radio ad in which former Judge Brocton Lockwood claims McGlynn's appointment to the appellate court was a political payoff.

Morani said Stewart admitted the radio ad "does have a negative tone to it" in a Carlyle Union Banner article Nov. 1.

"So Bruce Stewart publicly admits he broke the clean campaign pledge by going negative and then he criticizes us for responding to his smear campaign?" Morani said. "I don't think you can trust him."

"Maybe he's trying to hide the fact that he's taken more than $700,000 from trial lawyers," Morani said. "These are the same people who have been responsible for our broken court system that have chased good-paying jobs and healthcare from our communities."

Funding for McGlynn has come largely from business and medical interests, and from at least 1,000 individual donors, according to financial disclosure records. Groups such as Justpac, the Illinois Civil Justice League's political action committee, the Illinois Republican Party, the American Justice Partnership and the American Tort Reform Association have contributed to McGlynn.

"These lobby groups represent the interests of the insurance industry, Big Tobacco, drug companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce," Stewart said. "They hope that by flooding this district with money and TV ads, they can buy a judgeship for their candidate."

"Our courts are not for sale. Voters across this district are outraged by this obscene amount of money and this obvious power grab by D.C. special interest," Stewart added.

Stewart's campaign has been funded primarily by trial lawyers and through the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Morani said McGlynn has a proven record of reform and is committed to fixing a "broken court system."

"It's unfortunate that Judge Stewart is using hundreds of thousands of dollars in trial lawyer money to attack someone who wants to restore fairness and balance to our court system," Morani said.

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