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Abortion access raises stakes in state Supreme Court races

Monday, Aug 22, 2022 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* CBS News

In Illinois, meanwhile, there are two competitive judicial races this year after the state redrew its district boundaries for the seven-member Supreme Court. While Democrats have held a four-seat majority for nearly two decades, the state Supreme Court could flip with the new map in place this year, Faleschini said.

The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized the right to an abortion under the state constitution, but a change in its makeup could lead to a court fight that abortion rights advocates fear could jeopardize access. Such a step, Faleschini said, would not only have ramifications for Illinois patients, but also those in neighboring states who turn to Illinois for abortion services due to limits where they live.

“Illinois has an outsized role in the Midwest of continuing to keep abortion access somewhat accessible for the Midwest,” he said.

* Politico

If primary voting is any indication, Democrats face an uphill battle. The two districts encompass 12 Illinois counties, only two of which pulled a majority of Democratic ballots in the state’s June 28 primary.

“The Illinois Supreme Court districts are trending Republican now,” said political consultant Frank Calabrese. “Republicans can win both Supreme Court elections given that 53 percent of the total votes for Supreme Court candidates during the June primary were for the Republican candidates.” That’s even though the two districts were redrawn in the most recent remap process to favor Democrats. […]

Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke, a Republican running for a 10-year term in the 3rd District (after his current 2nd District was redrawn) faces Democratic Appellate Court Judge Mary O’Brien.

Former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who opposes abortion, faces Democratic Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Rochford. Republicans would need to win both races to shift the court right. Democrats need to win one of the races to keep their 4-3 majority.

* NBC News

Judicial elections don’t often grab the same national attention as other political races in which voter turnout is often much higher, but observers say the Supreme Court races in Illinois could foreshadow similar battles in other states over reproductive rights with sweeping consequences.

“If we lose this election, there is absolutely no guarantee that abortion will be legal past 2023,” said Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC, an abortion rights advocacy group. […]

Still, Illinois anti-abortion groups are keen on electing judges they view as sympathetic.

Justice Michael Burke, a Republican representing the state Supreme Court’s second district who is running for a 10-year term in the third district after district maps were redrawn, as well as former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who declared victory Friday over three other GOP candidates vying to be the justice in the second district, were “found qualified” by Illinois Right to Life Action in its latest voter guide. None of their Democratic rivals made the group’s cut.

* After the Dobbs decision, interest in the Illinois Supreme Court race “skyrocketed.” Via the Washington Post

Democratic Appellate Judge Mary Kay O’Brien had been working for a year to drum up interest in her campaign for Illinois Supreme Court, struggling to convince voters that it would affect them as a presidential or gubernatorial race would.

But “within 24 hours” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end federal protections for abortions, levels of interest in judicial races like hers skyrocketed, said O’Brien, a Democratic appellate judge.

“There’s no question that it energized and mobilized, especially young people and women,” she said. “It’s something that I think was just a complete alarm bell to some people.” […]

In Illinois, a group of progressive political operatives launched an organization last month dedicated to increasing awareness of the state Supreme Court race, according to co-founder Terry Cosgrove.


  1. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 9:13 am:

    Here’s the “thing”

    Illinois Republicans want these races to be partisan to thought, as they complain about “Democrat court” and “our values”

    Ok. Sure. Yep, there’s a partisan bend.


    Republicans then own that Republicans can be seen as a danger to women’s health, and further, Republicans are comfortable with rulings like in Florida, forcing a 16 year old to continue her pregnancy to full term. That’s real. That’s the GOP. The GOP in Illinois sees these court races as a partisan battle.

    Welp, then abortion is likely going to be a huge factor. Refusing women their choice, forcing children to continue pregnancies…

    Republican Illinois Supreme Court candidates should realize today… abortion is a big thing in their races, and it’s not going to be helpful… especially when they want that partisan talk for so many other things

  2. - Lord of the Fries - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 9:25 am:

    Except O’Brien was fairly Pro-Life when she was in the legislature…

  3. - Lake Villa Township - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 9:32 am:

    There are still (big 4×4) signs for Judge Shanes up all throughout Lake County, not even on the backroads either, on 45 and 59.

  4. - Norseman - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 9:35 am:

    The courts have been a hidden, but important part of our three-branch governmental system. The GOP, now MAGA GOP, recognized its importance a long time ago and laid out a strategy that resulted in a complete dominance of SCOTUS and many circuits. The Dems liked the courts for its power for change but ignored the political fundamentals for ensuring the ability to pick good justices.

    Folks who don’t want to see their rights taken away now need to focus, focus, focus on electing the right (not MAGA GOP) justices.

  5. - Grundy County - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 11:00 am:

    Mary Kay O’Brien has deep roots in Kankakee and Grundy counties. Red parts of the district. No sign of her opponent in the area. Helps to keep it close and win in Dupage amongst suburban women I would think.

  6. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 11:08 am:

    “ ‘The Illinois Supreme Court districts are trending Republican now,’ said political consultant Frank Calabrese.”

    Obviously he’s never listed to Mark Curran.

  7. - Amalia - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 11:21 am:

    yes, this is quite an important issue. but judicial qualifications matter also, of course. and Rochford has that in great volume over Curran. Not even close.

  8. - MisterJayEm - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 11:28 am:

    “If primary voting is any indication, Democrats face an uphill battle. The two districts encompass 12 Illinois counties, only two of which pulled a majority of Democratic ballots in the state’s June 28 primary.”

    Counties do not vote.

    – MrJM

  9. - Lake Villa Township - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 12:23 pm:


    True but will county had a huge r advantage for ballots pulled and that’s a county that’s crucial

  10. - Commissar Gritty - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 12:35 pm:

    Honest question, why do courts tend to skew so conservative, even at the State level? It’s one thing when Trump is appointing a record amount of Federal judges, but why is this even at risk in a supermajority blue state? If they try to overturn abortion here, there would be a full revolt agianst their legitimacy, and rightfully so.

  11. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 12:36 pm:

    ===in a supermajority blue state?===

    The State is divided into five Judicial Districts for the selection of Supreme and Appellate Court Judges. The First Judicial District consists of Cook County. The remainder of the State shall be divided by law into four Judicial Districts of substantially equal population, each of which shall be compact and composed of contiguous counties.

  12. - Roadrager - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 12:40 pm:

    ==Honest question, why do courts tend to skew so conservative, even at the State level?==

    Half a century of national Republicans spending and building infrastructure to put as many thumbs on the scale as possible in the judiciary versus half a century of national Democrats hoping that the inherent goodness and fairness they project upon our institutions will magically win out in the end.

    Republicans built a machine and Democrats dug a wishing well.

  13. - Mike K - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 1:02 pm:

    I “think” Frank would agree that the fact there was a meaningful Republican primary for Governor & U.S. Senate, but no comparable primary in these out-counties in the Democratic primary may be the reason turnout numbers skewed 53-47?

  14. - Joe Bidenopolous - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 1:49 pm:

    =“If primary voting is any indication, Democrats face an uphill battle. The two districts encompass 12 Illinois counties, only two of which pulled a majority of Democratic ballots in the state’s June 28 primary.”=

    I’d simply note that there was a contested Republican Primary for Governor and there wasn’t a contested Democratic Primary. I have to believe that drove some of the R numbers Calabrese is referencing

  15. - We’ll See - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 2:47 pm:

    == I’d simply note that there was a contested Republican Primary for Governor and there wasn’t a contested Democratic Primary. I have to believe that drove some of the R numbers Calabrese is referencing==


  16. - Shytown - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 3:04 pm:

    How does the second district race “trend republican” when Biden won four of the five counties and lost one by a couple of points? To another poster’s point, the repub base was energized in the primary. Dems base was not. This isn’t hard.

  17. - Yooper in Diaspora - Monday, Aug 22, 22 @ 10:34 pm:

    Roadrager’s comments today, here and on the Darren Bailey Man of War post - zingers. Even if many Christians think nothing like Bailey, we aren’t often performing our faith in public memes, either (though I recall once participating in a dramatic stations of the cross in Chicago that highlighted human rights abuses in Central America). But I worry more about the Democrats’ strand of idealistic trust that everyone will respect democratic institutions.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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