What's love got to do with it? Election day reflections

John J. Hopkins Nov. 19, 2006, 6:37am

Without question, from a legal or political standpoint, the biggest event of the year was Election Day 2006. Having keenly observed the ongoing battles for lo these many months, I offer up some modest commentary.

At the outset, let me say a few things. First, today's title - taken from the Tina Turner movie biopic - was the winner of the movie metaphor, without regard to subject matter. Other candidates to symbolize the rough and tumble Election of 2006 were "Some Like it Hot," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "The Right Stuff," or "The Wild Bunch."

But with its record spending and unprecedented gloves-off tone, this year can only be represented by asking the stinging rhetorical question, "What's Love Got to Do with It?"

Secondly, the results of 2006 do not herald a return to the excesses of the past, the paranoid editorial of The Record notwithstanding. Too much has been done, too many reforms implemented, too much accomplished to step back. My colleagues should trust the integrity of Chief Judge Callis - the only successful Record endorsement this year - and be positive.

There is more than cause to be optimistic.

Tip O'Neill notwithstanding, we can skip the local races, and concentrate instead on the elections to the Bench.

Stewart v. McGlynn: This contest set spending records for an appellate race, like its predecessor, Maag vs Karmeier. Try as they might, the Chamber of Commerce was unable to buy the 5th District seat, and good old common sense prevailed.

This was not a surrogate battle between Trial Lawyers and the forces of Corporate America, but a contest between two men, one judged qualified, one not; one successful in the end, one not.

There is no mandate here, nor was there one in the Karmeier election. What is clear is the need for finance reform, as the total bill of over $3 million is nothing short of obscene.

Limits are not enforceable, nor constitutional. The time has truly come to seriously examine merit based selection. The system cannot take another hit like this again.

Hylla v. Weber: A year ago, I termed this election as a 15-round heavyweight fight, and a gift to the media covering it. It did not disappoint.

From my standpoint, the better man won, and the voters sent a clear and unequivocal message in Hylla's 10,000 vote victory. But the price was high, way too high. Record amounts of cash were spent by both candidates, together with an unrivaled amount of campaign bile.

The object is to win, and to do what is necessary to achieve victory, within the limits of judicial campaign ethics. But now that the battle is over and the cost assessed, this race as well cries out for the reform of merit selection.

It is obvious that a change in the way the state selects the members of the bench is over due, and not a tinkering, but a complete overhaul. David Hylla will be a fine addition to the bench, but the blood letting of this campaign cannot be repeated.

Crowder v. Hackett: In stark contrast to the prior two races, the Crowder-Hackett race was a model of decorum. Neither side was overtly or savagely negative, instead choosing to concentrate on self-promotion rather than opposition destruction.

Crowder's 8,000-plus margin of victory surprised many, yours truly included, as she carried almost every area of the county with ease. As she has been on the associate level, Judge Crowder will be a fine addition to the circuit bench, and I wish her nothing but the best.

Cueto v. Evans: This result, an affirmation of a brilliant strategy, was particularly satisfying, as my old friend overcame mountains of unfair, untrue and unwarranted negative press and was wisely returned to the bench by the voters of St. Clair County.

Let us hope that this saga is now laid to rest, and the people's business can move forward.

Statewide: Rod the Weasel won re-election - try saying that three times fast - in what I thought to be surprisingly easy fashion, really by default.

The Topinka campaign never even got off the ground, stumbling out of the gate and behind from day one. The bright spot was the showing of the Green Party, now a viable third party alternative, and with more than five percent of the result, a fixture for years to come.

The only drama that remains is the parlor game of when and how many federal indictments will be handed down. Stay tuned, as there is surely more to come.

Nationally: Obviously, a good night to be riding the donkey, as Democrats swept back into power in both the House and the Senate. Much has been written, spoken and yelled about the meaning of such events, and the "mandate" that such a sweep implies, but I am not so sure.

After a long stretch standing in the corner, the Democrats have finally been invited back to the grown ups table. Will they behave or will they pull their sister's hair, throw mashed potatoes at their cousin George, or stuff peas up their nose?

Only time will tell. The clock is ticking to 2008.

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