James Wexstten

The Madison County Democratic Party and the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades have endorsed Madison County Associate Judge Richard Tognarelli to replace Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron, who is expected to retire at the end of his term in 2008 due to age restictions.

Tognarellli has served as an associate judge since 2002, handling a variety of cases.

Prior to being appointed to the bench, he worked as a general practice lawyer in Collinsville for 30 years, 14 of which he served as an assistant state's attorney, handling the Collinsville docket.

One focus of Tognarelli's law practice included serving as an independent arbitrator on a wide variety of cases.

"I appreciate the support and endorsement of the Democratic Party and local labor organizations," Tognarelli said.

"As an associate judge, I have served on the court system's Professionalism Advisory Council because I'm committed to continuing the process of improving our court system," he said. "I believe that the most important thing we can do as judges to continue to earn the public's trust and confidence is to focus on our role as fair and independent arbiters in our courtrooms.

"We as judges must be aware how our actions in both our personal and public lives impacts the reputation of the entire court system. The Professional Advisory Council is working to urge the highest standards of conduct for judges in all aspects of our lives."

Tognarelli said his focus on professional conduct will extend to his campaign.

"I intend to run a high-minded campaign focused on my experience, my credentials and my professional reputation," he said.

Tognarelli, a Collinsville native, now resides in Troy with his wife Gail. They have two adult children.

In addition to Tognarelli, the Democrats also put their support behind Appellate Judge Jim Wexstten, who was recommended for appointment by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier to fill the vacancy created by the untimely death of Justice Terrence J. Hopkins.

Wexstten said he appreciated the support he's received from the Democratic party and organized labor.

"With this endorsement, I have received the endorsement of either the party organizations or the party chairmen of all 37 counties in the Fifth Judicial District," he said.

Wexstten said that St. Clair County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Sprague has given him his endorsement and that the county's central committee is expected to vote in early September.

"That will be the last party organization that will vote for their endorsement and I intend to work hard to earn the endorsement of the full committee," he said.

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