Wexstten kicks off campaign with district media tour

Ann Knef Sep. 17, 2007, 11:20am

Wexstten kicks off campaign in front of St. Clair County Courthouse.

Surrounded by county officials and Democratic party leaders, Fifth Appellate Court Judge James Wexstten touted his experience and qualifications during the first stop of a media tour at the St. Clair County Courthouse Monday morning.

Wexstten said he was a "uniter, not a divider" and that he promises "fair and equal justice for all."

A Democrat from Mt. Vernon, Wexstten is facing Swansea trial attorney Judy Cates in a Feb. 5 primary race.

Wexstten, who served more than 18 years as a circuit judge in the Second Circuit and in that time twice as chief judge, was appointed to the appellate court in January following the death of Appellate Court Justice Terrence Hopkins.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, a Republican from Washington County, recommended that Wexstten replace Hopkins.

To date Wexstten has the endorsements of 33 of 37 county Democratic parties, as well as the endorsements of all 37 county party chairmen.

"I deeply appreciate the fact that every Democratic Party county organization that has endorsed a candidate in this race has endorsed my candidacy," Wexstten said.

St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney -- standing with St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, State's Attorney Bob Haida, Assessor Gordon Bush, Treasurer Charles Suarez, Board of Review member Jennifer Gomrich-Minton and candidate for circuit clerk Brendan Kelly -- introduced Wexstten on behalf of county party chairman Bob Sprague.

"He was appointed by a Republican Supreme Court justice," Delaney said of Wexstten. "He brings bi-partisanship to the court. He has no hidden agenda. He is a career lawyer and judge."

Delaney also said Wexstten is "not tied to trial lawyers and not tied to corporate America."

Haida said the county party slated Wexstten at a meeting last Thursday.

He said the organization took into account Cates' St. Clair County heritage, but Wexstten was selected based on his qualifications.

Wexstten lost an appellate court primary race in March 2002 to Madison County attorney Melissa Chapman, daughter of powerful plaintiff's attorney Morris Chapman of Granite City.

He is past president of the Illinois Judges Association (IJA), past president of the Jefferson County Bar Association, member of numerous ISBA and Supreme Court committees, instructor at the Supreme Court's seminars for new judges and an original member of the Judicial Ethics opinions Advisory Committee.

On Monday, Wexstten also planned stops in Edwardsville and Chester.

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