Cates puts down $669k of own money in bid for appellate court seat

Ann Knef Jan. 23, 2008, 1:18am

Fifth District Appellate Court candidate Judy Cates and her Swansea law firm have lent $669,516.95 to the cause in hopes of unseating rival James Wexstten in the Feb. 5 primary election.

Financial disclosure reports filed yesterday showed that Cates, a personal injury attorney, has spent a good portion of the funds on advertising, including a $250,000 expenditure paid to a Chicago media service, SMY Media Inc., for a major television buy.

Cates received $6,298 in individual contributions in the last half of 2007 and $8,250 so far this year for a total of $14,548.

Wexstten, who was appointed to the appellate bench last year, received $161,500 in individual contributions in the last half of 2007 and $148,361.82 so far this year for a total of $309,861.82 in individual contributions.

Wexstten has lent his campaign $74,875. His greatest expenditures have been for consulting services and polling, according to a financial report filed Tuesday.

All totaled, including transfers from other political committees, loans, non-itemized contributions and in-kind contributions, $684,064.95 has gone into Cates' campaign and $443,117.82 has gone into Wexstten's campaign since July 1, 2007. Wexstten raised a little more than $17,000 in the first half of 2007.

The candidates

Wexstten, who had served more than 18 years as a circuit judge in the Second Circuit, was appointed in January 2007 by the Illinois Supreme Court -- on the recommendation of Justice Lloyd Karmeier -- to fill a vacancy left by Judge Terence Hopkins who died in October 2006. Wexstten's term expires Dec. 1.

The winner of the primary is expected to win November's general election since there is no Republican challenger running for the seat.

Wexstten's campaign points to the Illinois State Bar Association's recently released Judicial Advisory Poll which rates Cates as "Not Recommended" and Wexstten as "Recommended."

The poll is conducted of lawyers within judicial districts who are asked to rate candidates on the basis of integrity, impartiality and legal ability, for instance. In the Fifth District, 1,813 ballots were mailed and 683 were returned.

In the category, "Meets Requirements of Office," Cates received a 51.52 percent rating and Wexstten received a 89.33 percent rating. A candidate needs at least 60 percent to be "Recommended."

However, a 41-member ISBA Judicial Evaluations Committee, which rates candidates based on a comprehensive review of each candidate's background and qualifications, rated Cates "Qualified," as it did for Wexstten.

According to an ISBA press release, the process used by the Judicial Evaluations Committee includes a detailed questionnaire submitted by candidates providing professional and personal information.

Wexstten touts the endorsements he has received from the chairmen of every Democratic organization in the Fifth District's 37 counties, and on Thursday, his campaign expects to receive the endorsements of law enforcement officials, including sheriffs and state's attorneys, and firefighters.

Cates, on the other hand, touts nearly 30-years experience in civil and criminal law. Her campaign claims she is "for the people," and states that "politics has no place in the courtroom."

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