Evanston voters key to 9th Subcircuit judge elections
Debra Shore, (left) who retained her seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago board and Lionel Jean-Baptiste, the winner in the 9th Subcircuit judicial race greet each other at the Hop Haus in Chicago March 20. | Joel Lerner~
Updated: March 29, 2012 3:32PM
Evanston voters played a key role in the election of two candidates to the bench in the 9th Judicial Subcircuit, providing strong margins for them, allowing them to offset gains opponents made in other parts of the sprawling district, according to unofficial returns from the March 20 election.
Lionel Jean-Baptiste and Larry Axelrood, both with strong community ties, drew significantly on Evanston support, vote totals show.
Jean-Baptiste, former Second Ward alderman in Evanston and long active locally, collected 11,353 votes to 7,095 for opponent Michael Bender, a 61.5 percent victory margin.
In Evanston, he collected 7,491 votes against 1,969 for Bender, a former president of the Skokie Park District Board of Commissioners.
Evanston political heavyweights — including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-9th; state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-9th; state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-18th; and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-13th — were among those backing Jean-Baptiste.
His campaign also tapped grass-roots support, with family and backers working the field almost from his announcement.
“He decided what he needed to do is be competitive in every part of the district, and that’s what he did,” said Suffredin, one of Jean-Baptiste’s early supporters.
Jean-Baptiste racked up substantial support in strongholds, such as his former 2nd Ward, Precinct 2, where he rolled up 255 votes to 21 for Bender.
But he was almost equally effective in other parts of the city.
For instance, Jean-Baptiste outpolled Bender 121-30 in Ward 6, Precinct 6, the Presbyterian Homes, where voters traditionally have been more conservative.
Bender countered with narrow wins in New Trier and Maine townships. He needed to do better in Niles Township — which actually has more registered voters than Evanston — but his advantage there of 3,433-2,426 votes was not nearly enough.
Jean-Baptiste also performed well in the city, collecting 4,402 or 56.47 of the vote. He was strongest in Chicago Alderman Joe Moore’s 49th Ward, where he received 2,591 votes to 1,113 for Bender, unofficial vote totals show.
In that ward, Committeeman David Fagus’s organization dispatched volunteers, sent out several mass emails, as well as two mailings that promoted a slate that featured Jean-Baptiste for judge.
Axelrood faced a field of four in the other 9th race, including highly regarded Mary S. Trew and Abbey Fishman Romanek, who had the backing of Schakowsky, Schoenberg, Gabel and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, and had lost a close race for the same office last time.
Axelrood , onetime Evanston Township High School football co-captain, received a solid 7,043 or 38.24 percent compared to 6,162 or 33.45 for fellow Wilmette resident Fishman Romanek, also an Evanston Township High School graduate; and 4,128 or 22.41 for Trew, unofficial totals show.
His 881-vote margin in Evanston proved the difference.
“I think it helped that he went to Evanston Township High School and he lived in Evanston at one point,” said Suffredin.
Overall, Axelrood, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney, stressed his experience and highest qualified bar ratings.
Evanston residents also voted on two referendum proposals, one a binding question giving the city the authority to aggregate power, buying from suppliers directly; and the other, an advisory proposal, asking voters whether the city should continue efforts to dissolve township government.
Evanston residents 73.16 percent vote in favor of aggregating stood higher than similar referendum proposals on the ballot in Park Ridge (54.46 per cent) and Skokie (71.06 percent) and slightly lower than Northbrook (75.74 percent), Wilmette (75.4 percent) and Glencoe (85.63 percent).
Odds favored strongly the City Council’s referendum question on dissolving the township if only because of the seemingly already determined nature of the question: “Should the Evanston Township Board continue to pursue the issue of dissolving Evanston Township?”
Residents voted 66.94 in favor of dissolving. Residents in two predominately African-American precincts, in Ward 2 and Ward 5, voted against dissolution of the township, which serves some of the city’s poorest through General Assistance and Emergency Assistance programs. Township government also includes the Township Assessor’s Office, which provides counseling and advocacy services for taxpayers.
With election results in hand, officials were already moving forward on the issue. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton was backing a change to a bill previously introduced by Schoenberg.
Cullerton’s proposal, expected to get a committee hearing on Tuesday, would call for elimination of the township assessor position.