What exactly was Gordon Maag's reputation around Southern Illinois before he ran for the State Supreme Court?
It's a question worth asking, if only because his lawyer, Rex Carr of East St. Louis, has raised it time-and-again since Maag's historic 2004 election loss.
That's since, as Maag keeps pressing tired defamation lawsuits against the campaign forces that drove him to such a stunning defeat. He's filed them in state and federal court, with Sangamon County Judge Patrick Kelley throwing out the state version for the first time last June, and for a second time last week.
"A public office holder, like a term employee, does not have a sufficient expectancy of continued employment," wrote Judge Kelley.
No kidding. The people had had enough of Judge Maag, apparently, delivering him to retirement in Alabama with two election drubbings in one evening.
That Maag blames a particular direct mail piece for his losses begs one to consider the cause and effect. Even if his charges were true, could a single mailer really have resulted in an election earthquake the magnitude of what occurred on November 2, 2004?
This wasn't a squeaker. The Democrat Maag lost to Republican Lloyd Karmeier by 53,182 votes-- a gaping 10 percentage points among a Southern Illinois electorate that, historically, leans about ten points the other way.
Case in point: In 2002, polling the same voters, Democrat Melissa Chapman dispatched her GOP opponent by nine points to win election to the 5th Appellate Court. She won by 32,249 votes.
Maag, as is old news, lost his retention race to that same court on the same night he fell to Karmeier. He needed 60 percent, but only 55 percent of voters gave Maag the thumbs up for another term, banishing him to retirement in Alabama.
In contrast, Maag colleague Judge Terence Hopkins, also running for retention to the 5th Appellate, won 67 percent of the vote that night. Among the same voters, 82,502 more of them consciously punched "no" to Gordon Maag.
Which takes us back to that opening question: Before he chose to run for higher office, was Maag's reputation among voters really that stellar and pristine?
Did voters really hold Maag and his public performance in such high regard?
As part of his appeal, Carr might ask the 310,000 Southern Illinoisans who chose Karmeier, or the 230,000 who opted against Maag's retention their specific reasons for voting against his client.
They were either mistaken, or prescient in rejecting a man now determined to build a legacy as one of our judiciary's sorest ever losers.