Semi-annual financial disclosure reports are not due at the Illinois State Board of Elections for another 13 days, but signs indicate that campaign cash will flow heavily into the coffers of Fifth Judicial District candidates.
On Monday, Judy Cates' campaign committee, Citizens for Judy Cates, reported receiving a $2,500 donation from Foote Myers Mielke & Flowers LLC in Geneva, Ill.
The deadline for filing the next "D-2" report, which details campaign contributions and expenditures between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2007, is Jan. 22.
But between now and primary election day -- Feb. 5 -- candidates must report any contribution exceeding $500 on an "A-1" report.
Appellate Court Judge James Wexstten, who hopes to fend off Cates' challenge, reports having received $77,361.82 from six contributors since Jan. 4.
The biggest donation to Committee to Elect Wexstten 5th District Appellate Judge came from Fiber Bond Corp. of Michigan City, Ind. at $50,000 on Jan. 8.
Granite City attorney Lance Callis donated $10,000 to Wexstten on Jan. 4. He is the father of Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis.
The Illinois State Medical Society Political Action Committee donated $10,861.82 on Jan. 4.
State Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville) donated $1,000 to Wexstten on Jan. 8; Law Offices of Christopher Cueto (Belleville) donated $5,000 on Jan. 8; and Kolker Law Offices P.C. (Belleville) donated $500 on Jan. 8.
The two Democratic judicial candidates sparred last week after Wexstten filed a formal complaint against Cates for breaking a pledge to only run a positive campaign and for violating the Judicial Campaign Tone and Conduct pledge.
Wexstten, of Mt. Vernon, said his opponent's negative campaign tactics are hypocritical and "a tremendous disappointment to me and to the voters."
Cates' campaign responded to Wexstten in a press release, "The First Amendment guarantees that issues such as the independence and integrity of the judiciary can be freely debated in an election campaign."
A former law partner of Stephen Tillery and Rex Carr, Cates, of Belleville, has spent her career as a personal injury lawyer, earning a reputation for filing class action and medical malpractice lawsuits.
Cates' billboards and signs are popping up all over Madison and St. Clair counties -- two of the 37 southern Illinois counties that make up the Fifth Judicial District. Her campaign ads are saturating radio airwaves, and to some extent are airing on television.
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. His current term expires Dec. 1, 2008.
Wexstten, whose campaign advertisements are less visible, ran for appellate court in a Democratic primary race against Melissa Chapman in 2002. Chapman went on to win the primary and general election and serves as an appellate court judge in Mt. Vernon.