The Madison County Record Oct. 29, 2011, 3:41am

Dicta is back with intriguing ditties and drama from the political hotbed of southwestern Illinois.

Jerry's Gift

And what a stage being set by the exit of The Boss from the 12th Congressional District, whose retirement gift keeps on giving to the politically ambitious here in the deep downstate. We can hardly wait for our very own Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis, a Democrat, to unveil her conservative, yet labor-friendly, reformer platform as a transplant resident of the district.

Can the skills of one who was able to convince tort reform skeptics in '06 that Madison County had not gone to Hell, and one who was twice elected chief judge by her peers—(not to mention one who might have preferred the comforts of a federal bench but sided with the current Secretary of State in '08)—endure the rigors of running in a patchwork district? (It's pronounced Karo not Kiro). Speaking of which, the judge actually has to step down before the town hall meeting tour begins.

The contest for chief judge is between Barbara Crowder and David Hylla, who are both up for retention next year. Crowder, who might have liked a run at the appellate court but ceded nomination to James Donovan's seat to St. Clair County Dem Judy Cates, is actively seeking the chief judge position. Among the eligible eight circuit judges who will vote, the score is so far tied at 4-4.

That brings us to the anticipated Republican replacement for Callis, the nomination made at the pleasure of Justice Lloyd Karmeier. Sources tell Dicta the list of aspirants includes former Madison County Circuit Judge Don Weber, a perennial and polarizing figure who most recently made a failed bid for retired State Rep. Ron Stephens' seat, assistant state's attorney Amy Maher and Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard attorney Phil Lading.

Lading, of Edwardsville, is married to Julie Lading, the sister of Jason Plummer, who also is a transplant resident of the 12th and a Republican congressional candidate. The son of RP Lumber magnate Robert Plummer, Jason Plummer earned real cred last year winning a statewide nomination for Lt. Governor. If nothing else, Plummer should be familiar with back roads and the quickest ways to get to beer and chicken dances.

All things being equal in a Callis v. Plummer match up – and they will be close in cash (Plummer financed last year's campaign with more than $1 million of personal wealth and Callis footed the bill for a judicial tag team retention effort in '06) – the Republican nominee could have an edge in the somewhat conservative leaning district. The race also has the attention of the DC GOP which will pledge resources in what they're defining as a tier one race.


But wait. No one can appreciate the feeling of being written off as well as Cardinals fans (this missive comes on the heels of a breathtaking Game 6). So while downstaters are savoring that come from behind feeling, perhaps they have an appetite for long shot candidates.

Running as a Republican, former Belleville Mayor Roger Cook – who is an actual resident of the district – could pull off a surprise. The businessman from St. Libory is savvy enough to have already hired experienced advisers and might get packaged as the sage of southern Illinois.

On the Democrat ticket, don't discount a last minute influx of trial lawyer cash to support a candidate who won't sound like a tort reformer, or worse for them, act like one in Washington. If they were to slate a candidate, you can take off the short list former State Rep. Jay Hoffman, who Madison County voters retired in 2010. Jay can keep his "Re-elect Hoffman" signs but will have to paint over numbers to "113."

Hoffman, who also has to change his residence to be eligible for office, will replace long time State Rep. Tom Holbrook whose public service in the State House will end but begin anew as head of the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

Stay tuned next week for what's happening in the Fifth District Appellate Court and the 20th Judicial Circuit.

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