At attention

Exactly one hour and four minutes after Governor Blagojevich was to have shown for the medical malpractice bill signing, a legislator, cell phone handy, called the governor’s chief of staff and demanded, “Where the heck is he?”

The minutes ticked by, but it hardly seemed to matter to the jubilant group. The only evidence that the Governor’s near hour-and-a-half tardiness was taking a toll on the crowd were the sagging postures of the cast herded to the podium way too soon.

Sympathies were extended to the doctors and lawmakers who shifted about for 15 minutes-or-so as the audience fixed their eyes forward. A photographer in the crowd lamented that long waits—which he was accustomed to—waste time and cost money. In another job he and his colleagues used to pass time by trying to calculate how much money was wasted when the “star” was late. Another observer chimed, “This is costing a whole lot.”

Moments later, enter stage right, the fresh and neatly attired governor--posture in check--accompanied by stalwart companion Jay Hoffman.

Circuituous Route

Republican Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier is responsible for filling vacancies on the Madison County bench. But sources tell Dicta no Republican wants to replace Third Circuit Court Judge Phillip Kardis because no Republican wants to stand for retention next year in Democrat-dominated Madison County.

The safer route: get appointed as an associate judge, who don’t have elections, then slip onto the circuit bench down the road in an uncontested race when you’re better known with voters. That’s why Democrat Associate Judge Ellar Duff (see Dicta, Aug. 22) remains the favorite to take Kardis’ old spot.

A quick look at the hard Madison County vote totals makes this logic elementary.

2006 is a non-presidential year when the Illinois governor’s race gets top billing. The last one like it, 2002, featured one contested judicial race for the 5th Appellate District in which even the highly controversial Democrat Melissa Chapman still earned 41,688 Madison County votes to Republican John Long’s 33,041.

Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, a two-term incumbent, was the leading 2002 GOP vote getter in Madison County with 38,309 votes. Attorney General wannabe Joe Birkett managed 35,568 and gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan 33,052.

Madison County has elected but two Republicans to countywide offices over the past 25 years. Now-U.S. Rep. John Shimkus did it in 1990, upsetting Democrat Mick Henkhaus for county treasurer 38,361 to 31,612. Republican Don Weber won election as Madison County state’s attorney in 1980.


Another associate judge vying to replace Kardis on the Third Circuit is another Madison County “legacy,” Clarence Harrison, son of retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison.

But Democrat party sources fear a Harrison appointment for what it will bring in 2006: a primary.

Harrison would face a challenge from Edwardsville plaintiff’s attorney Dave Hylla of Hylla & Bilbrey, who is reportedly watching and plotting from the wings.

Party chieftains—particularly Lance Callis, father of Circuit Judge Ann Callis, who needs to run for retention next year, don’t like primaries.

We haven’t forgotten the anger stirred by her appointment to the bench eleven years ago—at age 27 with a mere three years of experience. At the time, the Lakin Law Firm’s Gary Peel told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin it was “a slap in the face to the lawyers who paid their dues.”

In addition to his private practice, Hylla serves as city attorney of Venice and leads a polka outfit dubbed the “Good Times Band.” He mounted a failed campaign to replace Judge Robert Hennessy as an associate judge in 2001.

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