Six St. Clair County judicial candidates raise nearly $92,000 in contributions; Lopinot leads with $78,440

By Bethany Krajelis | Aug 27, 2012





Candidates running in a trio of contested judicial races in St. Clair County raked in nearly $92,000 in campaign contributions during the most recent reporting period.

And quarterly reports filed earlier this summer with the Illinois State Board of Elections show that the majority of that sum can be traced back to St. Clair Associate Judge Vincent Lopinot, who reported receiving about $78,440 in donations between April 1 and June 30.

Lopinot, a Democrat, is running against Belleville attorney Ronald Duebbert, a Republican, in the November election.

They seek to fill the seat currently held by Fifth District Appellate Court hopeful Stephen McGlynn, who was appointed to the position following the 2010 retirement of Circuit Judge Michael O'Malley.

The two other contested judicial races in St. Clair County pit Democrats Zina Cruse and Brian Trentman against Republicans Laninya Cason and Dan Emge.

Cruse and Cason, both of whom are currently associate judges in St. Clair County, seek election to the circuit judgeship that will be vacated by retiring Judge Milton Wharton.

Nashville attorneys Trentman and Emge are running against each other for the Washington County resident seat that is currently held by Circuit Judge Dennis Hatch, who is set to retire at the end of this year.

Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson, a Democrat, is running unopposed in what appears to be the only other St. Clair judicial race up for election in November. He seeks the seat being vacated by retiring Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto.

Records show Gleeson did not receive any campaign contributions in the most recent reporting period. The same goes for Circuit Judge Jan Fiss, who seeks retention in November.

Duebbert v. Lopinot (O'Malley vacancy)

Lopinot, a Democrat who handles the county's asbestos docket as an associate judge, told the Madison/St. Clair County Record in March that he would need to raise $50,000 to fend off Duebbert's challenge.

With less than three months left until the General Election, records show that Lopinot has not only exceeded that figure, but has raised nearly 10 times the amount that his Republican opponent did during the same time period.

Records submitted by Lopinot's campaign committee show that it had $3,890 when the reporting period began and received 189 itemized individual contributions totaling $77,500, as well $940 in non-itemized donations, between April 1 and June 30.

The majority of Lopinot's donations came in the form of $200 and $400 contributions from various individuals, including several local lawyers and law firms who focus their practices on asbestos litigation.

Records, however, also show that he received more than a dozen donations topping $1,000.

He received a $2,000 contribution from each of the following: his brother-in-law, Belleville attorney Russell Scott; Bonifield & Rosenstengel in Belleville; and Waters & Kraus in Dallas, Texas.

The Law Office of Matthew Marlen in Belleville donated $1,500.

Records also show the following Belleville and Edwardsville law firms and offices each contributed $1,000 to Lopinot's campaign committee: Goldenberg, Heller, Antognoli & Rowland; Gori, Julian & Associations; the law offices of Thomas Q. Keefe Jr.; the Kolker Law Office; the Kuehn Law Firm; the Law Office of Chris Cueto and the Weilmunster Law Group.

Besides law firms, the following lawyers also donated $1,000 each to Lopinot: Belleville attorneys William Caponi, Michael Hicky, Tom Keefe and Samantha Unsell; St. Louis attorney Thomas Rich, Swansea attorney John Kurowski, Northbrook attorney Keith Hebeisen and his wife, Jodi; Edwardsville attorney Larry Hepler and his wife, Sue; and Evergreen Park attorney Brian Murphy and his wife, Ellen.

In addition to the donations from Keefe, the recently named interim dean at St. Louis University School of Law, and his firm, records show his daughter, Kelli, a second-year law student at SLU, donated $1,000.

In comparison, records submitted by Duebbert's campaign committee show that it had about four times as much money as Lopinot's committee- $16,503 -when the reporting period began in April.

Duebbert reported receiving six individual donations totaling $3,200, a figure that is about 25 times less than what Lopinot's committee raised during the same three month period.

Duebbert's biggest donations - $1,000 each - came from Aficionados in Augusta, Ga., which identifies as a liquor store, and John Siemens, the owner of Siemens Manufacturing in Belleville.

Records submitted by Duebbert's committee show Don Weimer of Caseyville contributed $500, David Moss of Fairview Heights donated $175, Santelli Law Office in Belleville contributed $325 and Underwood Chiropractic in O'Fallon gave $200 to Duebbert.

Duebbert's committee also reported receiving about $5,695 in non-itemized transfers during the last reporting period. Transfers typically come from committees of other candidates or local political groups.

Because Illinois law does not require the itemization of contributions, transfers or expenditures if they are $150 or less, it is unclear who made those transfers to Duebbert's committee.

Lopinot's committee reported receiving 26 itemized transfers totaling about $8,000 from local candidates and political groups, including the campaign committees of state Sen. James Clayborne (D-East St. Louis) and fellow judicial hopeful Zina Cruse.

Although he was outraised by his Democratic opponent, Duebbert spent more than Lopinot during the most recent reporting period.

Records show that Duebbert's committee spent about $18,332 between April 1 and June 30 on various campaign-related items, including advertising, door hangars, postage, meals and hall rentals for fundraisers.

Lopinot's committee reported spending about $14,654 during the same period on the printing of signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts, among other campaign-related items and fundraisers.

Records show that Duebbert's committee has $40,000 in debt and obligations to the judicial hopeful and Lopinot's committee has about $24,000 in debt to Lopinot.

As of June 30, Lopinot's committee had about $75,775 while Duebbert's committee reported a balance of about $7,065.

Lopinot's committee on Monday filed a report with the state board of elections, noting that it has received five, $1,000 contributions in the current reporting period, which began July 1 and ends Sept. 30.

All five of those donations came from attorneys at Becker, Paulson, Hoerner & Thompson in Belleville.

Cason v. Cruse (Wharton vacancy)

Cason, the Republican seeking to fill Wharton's soon-to-be vacant seat, reported having slightly less than $3,000 when the reporting period began in April.

Cruse, the Democratic running against Cason, started off the reporting period with more than twice that amount at about $8,735.

Records show Cason's committee received three itemized contributions totaling $1,750, as well as $450 in non-itemized donations, between April 1 and June 30 for a total of about $2,200.

Her campaign committee reported receiving $1,000 from the Law Offices of Staci Yandle in O'Fallon, $500 from James Beckom of Beach Park and $250 from Kimberly Cole of Chicago.

During that same three month period, Cruse's committee reported receiving five itemized contributions totaling $3,300 and $50 in non-itemized donations.

Cruse's biggest contribution actually came from one of her opponent's three donors: the Law Offices of Staci Yandle. The O'Fallon firm donated $2,500 to Cruse's committee in April, about a month before it contributed $1,000 to Cason's campaign.

Cruse's committee also reported receiving $200 contributions from each of the following Belleville individuals and businesses: Ganim Investments, attorney David Guymon and the Rice Law Offices. Brian Manion of Shiloh also donated $200.

In addition, records show Cruse received a $300 transfer from the St. Clair Circuit Judge Robert LeChien's 2010 retention committee. LeChien's committee also donated $400 to Lopinot's campaign this year.

When it comes to expenditures, records show that Cruse's committee spent nearly $2,500 on various campaign-related items while Cason's committee spent slightly more than $8,500 during the same three month period.

Cason's committee also reported having nearly $8,000 in debt to the candidate.

As of June 30, her committee had about $4,557 and Cruse's committee reported having about twice that amount with $9,355.

Emge v. Trentman (Hatch vacancy)

Records show that in April, the campaign committee of Trentman, the Democrat running against Emge for the Washington County resident circuit judgeship, had slightly less than $200, about a third of the $785 reported by Emge's committee.

Trentman's committee reported receiving $4,000 in the form of three contributions between April 1 and June 30.

Two of the three donations came from Wayne or Lucille Trentman of Mascoutah and totaled $3,000. The remaining $1,000 donation came from Charles or Bonnie Nesbitt of Belleville.

Records show Trentman's campaign committee also received a $6,050.46 transfer from "Friends of Tony Mayville," a committee created to "support Democratic candidates for election," according to the board of elections website.

Emge's campaign committee, which was the only one of the six local committees for judicial candidates to turn in a paper copy of its quarterly report as opposed to filing it electronically, reported receiving one, $500 contribution between April 1 and June 30.

That donation came from Bening Communications in Nashville.

Records also show Emge's committee received $500 in combined transfers from the Washington County Republican Central Committee and the Washington County Century Club.

Although he raised less than his opponent, Emge's committee spent more in the last reporting period.

Records show Emge spent about $544 on newspaper advertising and campaign t-shirts compared to the $80 in non-itemized expenditures reported by Trentman's committee.

As of June 30, Emge's committee had about $1,262 in its coffers and Trentman's committee reported having about $10,168.

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