Appellate Court race tops $1.3 million in fund-raising

Ann Knef Jan. 31, 2008, 11:43am



Fund-raising in the Fifth Judicial District topped the $1.3 million mark this week as each campaign got a cash infusion from the candidates' own pockets.

To date, incumbent Judge James Wexstten's campaign has received more than $640,000 in individual contributions, in-kind contributions and loans. Wexstten has lent his campaign nearly $175,000 -- close to $100,000 of it during the past two days.

Even though his opponent -- Swansea trial lawyer Judy Cates -- has a cash advantage, Wexstten narrowed the gap in the past week with nearly $100,000 coming in from a variety of donors including plaintiff's attorneys, defense attorneys, unions and the Illinois State Medical Society, for instance.

The two Democrats square off in the Feb. 5 primary election.

Not many individuals have contributed to Cates' campaign committee. So far she has lent her campaign more than $725,000 -- $56,000 just this week -- and has received only $14,548 in individual contributions.

While Wexstten has the support of southern Illinois law enforcement officials and a coalition of doctors, Cates appears to have lined up the support of at least one doctor who appears on a TV commercial, namely, Timothy Kaiser, M.D., an Alton otolaryngologist.

Kaiser was a lead plaintiff in a 2000 class action lawsuit against Cigna HealthCare in which attorneys, Cates being the lead, divvied up $55 million in fees. The case was settled in 2004.

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.

In addition to support from law enforcement officials and doctors, Wexstten touts the endorsements he has received from the chairmen of every Democratic organization in the Fifth District's 37 counties.

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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