Madison County circuit judge candidate Mark Rabe, who is dedicated to keeping court costs on taxpayer dollars down, recently reported his first campaign contribution over $1,000 with just under four weeks until Election Day.
Rabe is running on the Republican ticket for the circuit judge vacancy created by Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder’s retirement at the end of this year. He is running against Associate Judge Sarah Smith, a Democrat.
Rabe announced his candidacy in December 2017 and mostly ran a quiet campaign until recently. Rabe’s campaign committee, Friends For Rabe ’18, was formed on Sept. 12, and has claimed one contribution over $1,000 from Pamela Carter of Glen Carbon on Oct. 2.
Rabe said he didn’t organize a campaign committee sooner because he hadn’t yet met the reporting requirements.
Rabe said his history as an in-house attorney for The Boeing Company has made raising money difficult.
“I don’t have access to the revenue sources that any of the other candidates do,” he said.
Rabe said his campaign is cost effective, focusing on things he can do for free.
Rabe’s cost-effective mindset transfers to the courtroom. He said he is well aware of Madison County’s reputation as a Judicial Hellhole and has a “keen eye for those who are just wasting the court’s time,” which ends up costing taxpayers more money.
“I’m not interested in running up the bill, folks,” he said.
Rabe said he wants to become a circuit judge to serve the people.
“I want to provide justice to the greatest amount of people,” he said.
Rabe said he believes the bench is for interpreting the laws, not to make new ones.
“Separation of powers is essential to ensure that the government doesn’t grow too big or too oppressive,” he said.
Rabe was born and raised in Steeleville in Randolph County where his father worked for Illinois Power.
Rabe’s career path got off to a rocky start after high school graduation. He went to the University of Illinois to be an engineer and later flunked out.
“Finally, the University of Illinois invited me not to comeback,” he said.
Rabe said his rough start in college is a crucial part of his story.
“Reacting and responding to a challenge is nothing to be ashamed of,” he said.
Shortly after, Rabe began working in the coal mine. He worked there for five years, during which he married his high school sweetheart.
Rabe said that two of his wife’s uncles cornered him at a family gathering and asked what he was doing with his life.
“I hadn’t challenged myself, they challenged me for me,” he said.
One of those two uncles was former Judge Bill F. Green of Murphysboro and the other was a senior executive for an engineering firm in Idaho.
In response, Rabe said he decided to go back to school. He worked the midnight shift at the coal mine and enrolled in Southern Illinois University Carbondale during the day, focusing on English and History. He said he planned on continuing to law school.
“For the next three years, I was a full-time mine worker and a full-time student,” Rabe said.
Following graduation, Rabe was accepted into Harvard Law School, where he spent three years driving from the coal mine to law school.
Rabe spent five years working for Bryan Cave after graduating law school. He focused on corporate law, including contracts and asset sales.
He then worked in the St. Louis office for Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal, where he focused on government contracts with his mentor Mike Gaffney.
Following Gafney’s death, Rabe worked as an in-house attorney for McDonnell Douglas, which was later bought by Boeing. He moved to the litigation group with Boeing and was eventually transferred to Seattle, where he handled all the commercial work, bankruptcy, and defense business, among others.
“I was a one-man band in litigation up there for two to two-and-a-half years,” Rabe said.
Rabe decided to move his family back to Illinois in 2003 when a local position at Boeing was available.
Rabe was laid off from Boeing in August 2017 when they had a "head count reduction.” He said his layoff had nothing to do with performance. He said he had three separate jobs at Boeing, “none of which were enough for a full-time lawyer.”
Upon returning to Illinois, Rabe became active in local Republican politics.
He ran for circuit judge in 2012 but lost in the primary. At the time, he was working full time at Boeing in St. Louis while trying to run a campaign in Madison County, which he said “is just not compatible.”
Rabe also worked on Fifth District Appellate Justice John Barberis’ campaign in 2016, who also campaigned on a small budget.
During both his campaign for circuit judge and appellate judge, Barberis, of St. Jacob, did not accept campaign contributions from attorneys.
Rabe recently became a member of the Federalist Society, which he said is “a nationwide network of conservative lawyers who attempt to combat the idea that the government oversight is the answer to everything.”
He said Republican appellate justice James “Randy” Moore is also a member of the Federalist Society.
Rabe is also on the Edwardsville Plan Commission and the SWIDA Board, or the Southwestern Illinois Development Agency, which is “a municipality that may issue bonds or any project in a four-county area.”