MOUNT VERNON – Fifth District appellate court Justice Melissa Chapman will retire on Oct. 1, leaving a single Democrat on a bench where that party held six of seven seats upon her arrival 18 years ago.
Justice Judy Cates, who won as a Democrat in 2012, will find herself alone.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who won as a Republican in 2004, will appoint Chapman’s replacement.
Unless he springs a surprise, Republicans will gain their sixth seat.
Time has delivered what heavy spending couldn’t deliver for Republicans, who last decade spent $2 million on a Fifth District race and lost.
Democrats have performed poorly in the last three Fifth District races, as rural sentiment swung sharply against the party.
Last year, Democratic candidate Kevin Hoerner captured less than a third of votes outside of Madison and St. Clair counties.
Chapman’s departure will create a temporary regional balance, with three Justices from Madison or St. Clair counties and three from the district’s rural side.
When Chapman joined the court, six Justices came from Madison or St. Clair.
Chapman, age 68, practiced in the firm of father Morris Chapman in Granite City.
In 1998, she joined the board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission.
In 2001, Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison appointed her to replace retiring Fifth District Justice Charles Chapman.
She joined Richard Goldenhersh, Philip Rarick, and Clyde Kuehn, all of St. Clair County, Thomas Welch and Gordon Maag of Madison County, and Terrence Hopkins of Franklin County.
Welch, as the lone Republican, stood in the shoes Cates now wears as a minority.
Chapman’s first opinion found Williamson County associate judge John Speroni properly denied transfer of a suit against a state agency to Sangamon County.
Goldenhersh and Hopkins concurred.
Her third opinion found Madison County asbestos judge Nicholas Byron properly enforced a settlement.
Maag and Hopkins concurred.
Chapman ran to keep her seat in 2002, and spent $358,802 in a race against Republican attorney John Long.
She loaned her campaign $210,000 and received about $150,000 from individuals, mostly lawyers.
Her father gave her $30,600. She received $7,000 from John Simmons’s firm, $5,250 from Becker and Galanti, $3,864 from Rex Carr’s firm, $3,000 from Lance Callis, and $2,325 from the firm and family of Bruce Cook. Robert Howerton of Marion gave her $3,000, and four lawyers in that vicinity gave her $1,000 each. Eight Chicago lawyers gave her a total of $8,000. Byron’s campaign committee gave her $900. Judy Cates gave her $500.
Chapman carried 47 percent in the primary to defeat James Wexstten of Mount Vernon at 34 percent and Patrick McCann of Carbondale at 19 percent.
Republican Long of O’Fallon spent $43,221 on the general election.
Chapman won with 54 percent.
Rarick meanwhile gained an appointment to the Supreme Court, but he decided to retire in 2004.
Maag took two fateful steps, running for Rarick’s seat on the Supreme Court and standing for retention at the Fifth District.
Maag and Karmeier each spent more than $4 million.
Maag suffered double defeat, falling short of 50 percent against Karmeier and short of 60 percent for retention.
Democrat James Donovan enjoyed a better year, taking Rarick’s Fifth District seat without opposition in the primary or the general election.
Kuehn’s term had ended, but he delayed his departure by occupying Maag’s seat while Karmeier searched for someone to take Maag’s place.
In 2005, on Karmeier’s recommendations, the Supreme Court filled the Maag and Kuehn vacancies with Stephen McGlynn of St. Clair County and Stephen Spomer of Alexander County.
That reduced the Democratic majority to a 4-3 balance.
McGlynn ran to keep his seat in 2006, without opposition in the primary.
On the Democratic side, Bruce Stewart of Harrisburg prevailed in the primary over Bill Berry of Collinsville.
Stewart and McGlynn proceeded to spend more than $3 million.
McGlynn’s party gave him $1,204,000, and he spent $2,261,079.
Stewart’s party gave him more than $300,000, and he spent $1,071,110.
Voters chose Stewart with 52 percent.
That would have given a fifth seat to Democrats, except that Hopkins died two weeks before the election.
Karmeier recommended Democrat James Wexstten of Mount Vernon to replace Hopkins, and the Supreme Court appointed Wexstten in 2007.
Wexstten ran to keep his seat in 2008, and Cates opposed him in the primary.
He spent $675,436, she spent $598,621, and he won with 53 percent.
He won the general election without opposition.
The pace of change on the Fifth District bench slowed until Justice Donovan announced he would retire in 2012.
Cates and McGlynn competed for his seat that year, but state Republicans didn’t sense the urgency they sensed in 2006.
Cates spent $664,626, McGlynn spent $227,105, and Cates won with 52 percent.
Chapman stood for retention in 2012 and spent $78,608.
Simmons and 14 persons in his firm gave her $10,250. Randy Gori, Barry Julian, and their firm gave her $6,961. The Goldenberg Heller firm gave her $5,750. John Driscoll’s firm in St. Louis gave her $4,867. Dowd and Dowd of St. Louis gave her $2,500. Kujawski and Associates gave her $1,000, and so did Schoen Walton. Cates’s former firm gave her $700, and Justice Stewart gave her $300.
Spomer retired in 2014, and the Supreme Court appointed Republican Randy Moore of Williamson County on Karmeier’s recommendation.
Wexstten retired in 2015, and the Supreme Court appointed Republican Eugene Schwarm of Fayette County on Karmeier’s recommendation.
That gave Republicans three seats, counting Welch.
Welch’s first election, in 1980, goes back so far that the Illinois Election Board website has no record of it.
Voters retained him in 1990, 2000, and 2010.
Another opening came into view in 2015, when Stewart announced he would not stand for retention in 2016.
Schwarm finished Wexstten’s term in 2016, but did not run for a full term.
Moore decided to leave Spomer’s former seat and run for Schwarm’s seat.
Democrat Jo Beth Weber of Jefferson County decided to oppose him.
Republican John Barberis, circuit judge in Madison County, decided to run for Stewart’s seat.
Democrat Brad Bleyer of Williamson County decided to oppose him.
Weber and Bleyer spent about four times as much money as their opponents, but voters didn’t buy their message.
Weber spent $532,080, Moore spent $133,801, and Moore won with 54 percent.
Bleyer spent $196,958, Barberis spent $35,119, and Barberis won with 56 percent.
That tipped the court’s balance to four Republicans and three Democrats.
Last year, on Karmeier’s recommendation, the Supreme Court appointed Republican David Overstreet of Jefferson County to fill the seat Moore left.
Justice Goldenhersh then retired, and Overstreet decided to leave his seat and run for Goldenhersh’s seat.
Kevin Hoerner of St. Clair County decided to run against Overstreet.
Hoerner spent $319,365, Overstreet spent $94,975, and Overstreet won.
Earlier this year, on Karmeier’s recommendation, the Supreme Court appointed Republican Mark Boie of Union County to fill the seat Overstreet left.
That gave Republicans five seats.
According to Fifth District clerk John Flood, the Supreme Court hasn’t decided when to hold an election for Chapman’s seat.
The court’s roster currently carries Welch, Moore, Barberis, Overstreet, and Boie on the Republican side, and Chapman and Cates on the Democratic side.
Welch has spent more years at the court than the other six together.
If he wishes to serve another term, he must stand for retention next year.
He turned 80 in February.