* Carol Marin looks at the contested Supreme Court primary and yesterday’s federal judicial decision striking down some of the state’s regulations on independent expenditures…
Abortion is front and center in the Illinois Supreme Court race thanks to a federal court ruling Tuesday that gave the bipartisan, pro-choice Personal PAC a giant victory. And opened the way for unlimited fund-raising for pro-choice candidates.
That kindles a firefight over the open seat on the March 20 primary ballot. Some background:
Candidate Mary Jane Theis — an incumbent, appointed Supreme Court justice — has attracted the most money, $1,141,385.36, and endorsements from the Democratic Party and Rahm Emanuel. But, until a recent TV ad blitz, she’s been a virtual unknown.
Opponent Aurelia Pucinski, an appellate court justice, has the least — $33,529.68, but huge name recognition.
The mailer, while silent on Theis’ stand on abortion, lists endorsements by pro-choice organizations along with the highest endorsements by bar associations.
Pucinski plans a news conference Wednesday to address the Personal Pac issue. A Pucinski spokesman responded to the mailing by reiterating the ethical canon that judges may not assert a position on issues that may come before them.
Subscribers saw the mailer yesterday.
* Meanwhile, Theis’ big TV ad buy is pushing up her poll numbers, and the Personal PAC mail will only help that effort…
Theis leads Pucinski 29 percent to 25 percent in the poll of 400 likely Democratic voters. With a margin-of-error of 5 percentage points, that means a statistical dead-heat.
Pucinski has a name Cook County voters have come to know over the half a century that Aurelia Pucinski and, before her, her father, U.S. Rep. Roman Pucinski, spent in elected office.
Theis has a name most voters could not even pronounce (It’s pronounced TICE, rhyming with “rice.”) a month ago though she has been a judge 28 years.
In a poll Feb. 6-8, Pucinski had 32 percent of the vote; attorney Thomas Flannigan had 13 percent; Appellate Justice Joy Cunningham had 12 percent and Theis — who has served on the high court by appointment for the past year — brought up the rear with 7 percent.
Just a month later, in a poll conducted March 11-12, Theis now leads with 29 percent. Pucinski is four points behind at 25 percent. Cunningham has 13 percent. And Flannigan has 11 percent.
Theis’s campaign commissioned both of the polls, which were conducted by GBA Strategies.
What has happened between the two surveys is close to half-a-million dollars of television commercials boosting Theis.
Theis’s name recognition now stands at 45 percent, compared to 60 percent who recognize Pucinski’s name and 26 percent who recognize Cunningham’s name, according to the poll.
Cunningham, who would be the first African-American woman on the high court, has had a more limited television presence.
* ADDED: Supreme Court to hear Batavia online scam case: The Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments in a fraud lawsuit against a Batavia woman who is accused of conducting an elaborate, 18-month online hoax to make a California woman believe that a firefighter she’d met in a chat room and fallen in love with had died.
* Federal judge throws out part of Illinois campaign finance law: But the watchdog group that helped establish the state campaign-finance law said Aspen’s ruling would bring “super PACs” to Illinois. “As we have already seen at the federal level, super PACs open the door to a risk of corruption by allowing enormous donations from one contributor to be dedicated to the candidate of their choosing,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
* Illinois Supreme Court Candidate Forum
* Hines: Supreme Court candidates on recusal
* Judge Aurelia Pucinski is interviewed for Public Affairs TV
* Duking it out for an Illinois Supreme Court seat