The campaign committee for St. Clair County Associate Judge Chris Kolker last week called on candidate for judge Katherine Ruocco to "acknowledge stealing social media posts and campaign slogans."
Materials in question involved the phrase "Raising the Bar" and use of a slideshow on new laws that was created by Kolker's wife Katie Davis, a lobbyist for the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
Ruocco has denied any wrongdoing. Her full statement can be found here.
Kolker is running as a Democrat for the open resident circuit seat of Robert LeChien who died in August.
Ruocco is running on the Republican ticket and would go on to face Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf at the ballot box if she wins a March 20 primary race against attorney Marshall Hilmes, whose candidacy she recently tried but failed to derail.
“They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we’re certainly glad that Ruocco recognizes Judge Kolker has great ideas," said Kolker's campaign chair Todd Mathews, an attorney at Gori Julian in Edwardsville.
"While we welcome her endorsements of our ideas, perhaps she should come up with some of her own. She is a professional candidate. She has run for several offices."
Ruocco, who ran unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate in 2014 and state Representative in 2016, has denied "stealing" Kolker's slogan.
"The phrase “raising the bar" is not - and has never been - my campaign slogan," she told the Record. "Those three words appeared once on my campaign website (as part of an eight-word subtitle for one website post). In fact, my campaign adopted its slogan of "Justice for All" months ago."
In a press release, Mathews went on to state that Kolker has proposed that judicial candidates should hold themselves to higher standards "than some of those in the past," and has outlined proposals on his website that went live in early October of last year.
Mathews also tied Ruocco to St Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert, suggesting that her use of "Raising the Bar" was a "strange choice" since she "actively supported and ran last election cycle with Republican Judge Ronald Duebbert who now has felony charges pending."
Ruocco responded by saying that the Kolker campaign’s "irrelevant and opportunistic mention of Judge Duebbert and his currently pending charges is highly inappropriate and willfully misleading. Politics have no place in the courtroom."
Mathews further pointed to materials Ruocco "copied" from Kolker, such as a "custom-created slideshow on new laws."
"The slide show was created by Kolker’s campaign team," the Kolker press release states. "She has also copied social media posts such as deadlines under the affordable care act."
“If she wants to continue using and sharing our materials, we’d be more than happy to supply her with Kolker for Judge bumper stickers and yard signs,” Mathews stated.
Ruocco contends that someone on her campaign suggested posting a public link of Katie Davis’ summary of laws slideshow, but didn't realize at the time that the author was Kolker’s wife or that the slideshow was affiliated with his campaign.
"Upon learning that Davis was Kolker’s wife and had created the slides for her husband’s campaign, the post was deleted amicably by Ruocco’s staff, per Judge Kolker’s request," Ruocco stated.