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Democrats hold on to majority on Illinois Supreme Court as Judge Elizabeth Rochford declares victory

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Courtesy of the candidates
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WBEZ

Rochford thanked her supporters about 10:30 p.m. after her Republican opponent, Mark Curran, called to concede in the newly drawn suburban 2nd District.

Democrats held on to their majority on the Illinois Supreme Court Tuesday night as Judge Elizabeth Rochford declared victory in one of two vacant seats up for grabs.

Rochford thanked her supporters about 10:30 p.m. after her Republican opponent, Mark Curran, called to concede in the newly drawn suburban 2nd District.

“I’m so proud of what we accomplished, we’re just getting started,” Rochford told a cheering crowd.

As she spoke, about 43% of precincts had been counted, with Rochford up 53% to 47% over the former Lake County sheriff who was seeking his first-ever judicial office in a district covering the northwestern and western suburbs.

In the western and southwestern suburban 3rd District, Appellate Justice Mary Kay O’Brien held a scant 51%-49% lead over incumbent Republican Justice Michael J. Burke, with 54% of precincts counted.

This year, with two vacancies to fill, Republicans believed they had a shot at shifting the court’s balance with abortion, gun control and workers’ rights in the spotlight.

The court’s boundaries also had been redrawn for the first time in 58 years. But while Democrats mapped out the lines, they couldn’t guarantee wins. Millions of dollars were poured into these races, yet the court’s balance seemed, early on, bound for the same split.

At her party at the Post Time Bar and Grille in Libertyville, Rochford said she only considered running for the Supreme Court seat when the new district was created.“It was an opportunity I never dreamed of, but I wanted to be able to serve”.

The Lake County judge said she wouldn’t be prepared for the role without prior experience as a judge.

“I thinkI’dcertainly be at a disadvantage,” she said, a dig at Curran who’s never been a judge.

Curran also hosted a party in Libertyville,at Austin’s Restaurant, where supporters said Curran’s work in law enforcement makes up for his lack of experience as a judge.

”He was a sheriff and he’s been a lawyer, but most important is I believe he has common sense,” said Jim Stubing, a cabinet maker of 46 years.

“He’s seen it all, so that’s different from how a judge would see it.”

The newly drawn 2nd District covers Kane, Lake and McHenry counties plus DeKalb and Kendall counties.

The 3rd District comprises DuPage and Will counties, plus Bureau, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee and LaSalle counties.

Burke, an Illinois appellate justice for 12 years, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2020 to fill a retirement vacancy in the then-2nd District.

O’Brien has been a justice on the 3rd District Appellate Court for over 19 years, and before that she was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives.