Kolker wins resident circuit seat; Republican Cason 'extremely disappointed' at tenor of race, attacks

By John Breslin | Nov 7, 2018

Associate Judge Chris Kolker fended off a challenge from Republican Laninya Cason for a seat on the 20th Judicial Circuit.

But Cason remains deeply unhappy at the tenor of the race, and attacks on her over the death of a child.

"I am extremely disappointed at how Chris Kolker ran his campaign based on a lie," Cason told the Record. "I think St. Clair County deserves better than a lie about the death of a child for political gain."

Kolker's and Cason's campaigns were marked by character attacks that originated with an article published in March.

It was critical of Cason's handling, while an associate judge, of guardianship for a child released to his parents' custody in Michigan in 2013, who a short time later died at the hands of the father.  

Cason said the article put her in a false light, because even though she did terminate guardianship of the child in 2010 and returned Elijah Campbell to his mother, that was not the full story.

Other events happened and it was another St. Clair County judge who signed an order returning the boy to his parents, not her. She said she served on the traffic docket in East St. Louis in 2013, and since 2010 had no further involvement with the boy's case.

"This was a horrible tragedy," Kolker posted on his Facebook page about a week after the article was published. "I cannot imagine why one would make a baby live with a murderer after being warned it would be unsafe.”

Kolker re-posted remarks about Cason's handling of the matter last month. Cason reacted with several posts, among them, "Kolker sucks."

Kolker then used Cason's remarks in a post, commenting, "Laninya Cason bad temperament is not judicial."

A native of East St. Louis, Cason said she was also "extremely disappointed" that the city, and its black community, voted against her, and against what she believes are their best interests.

"I just feel bad for the residents who do not have a voice, and the voice they have been using has been useless. I fear for the future of the city."

Cason, a former associate judge on the 20th circuit, said she will continue to work as an attorney but otherwise will wait and see "what the future holds" politically.

Kolker of Fairview Heights, a sitting associate judge, did not immediately return calls asking for reaction to the election result.

He defeated Cason by a 14 point margin, 57-43, with a tally of 50,277 to 38,523 votes, a difference of 11,754 votes.

In St. Clair County, Kolker received 45,059 votes to Cason's 36,594. In East St. Louis, Kolker got 5,218 to Cason's 1,929.

The resident seat the two were competing for was previously occupied by Judge Robert LeChien, who died in August 2017. He was replaced in August this year by William Stiehl, who will serve until Kolker is sworn in, in December.

Kolker has served as an associate judge since 2013; Cason served as an associate judge from 2003 to 2015.

The Democrat started fund-raising a year ago, having brought in a little more than $200,000, largely from local attorneys and law firms

Cason did not spend more than $5,000 on her campaign, the threshold for registering with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

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