For those who’ve missed my dulcet tones wafting along the morning airwaves, your fondest wish is about to come true! Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. I’ll be pushing ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election’ on Elgin’s own WRMN AM1410 radio.
Yes! That means I’ll be back with former Ward & Jones co-host extraordinaire, Larry Jones, and the inimitable Mark “Marky B” Bialek for a half hour of rousing conversation. You really don’t want to miss this one folks!
If you didn’t keep that old transistor radio, you most certainly can listen to WRMN online!
That likely means this column will supplant Wednesday’s Quick Hits! We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming!
The State’s Attorney’s Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting!
State’s Attorney Joe McMahon’s decision not to run in 2020 sent the entire Kane County Republican Party scrambling to find a replacement. And their search was particularly frenetic because an exceptional Democratic candidate, Jamie Mosser, had already announced and anyone with half a brain knows 2020 is going to be the year of the Democratic woman.
So, when KCSAO Felony chief Bill Engerman started plying the phones in an effort to garner electoral support, the GOP silence was deafening. Engerman has more skeletons in his closet than Jeffrey Dahmer and the local Republicans knew he couldn’t beat Mosser.
Other Republicans tried to recruit Amanda Hamilton, a partner at Geneva’s Konicek and Dillon law firm, but while she’s certainly a fine attorney with a stellar CV, and she’s a much more presentable candidate that Engerman would ever be, she’s a mere 34 years old. And no 34-year-old is ready to head into that dysfunctional morass of a state’s attorney’s office and set things straight. She’s never been a prosecutor either, which would make the gig even more difficult.
So, let’s see if you’ve been paying attention, class! What’s does politics, like nature, abhor? That’s right! A vacuum! And this particular “vacuum” was powerful enough to drew former 16th Circuit and current Second District Appellate Court Judge Robert “Bob” Spence directly into it.
For those of you who don’t follow judicial careers, Spence, 63, a Bloomington, Illinois, native, received his J.D. from John Marshall Law School, served as an ASA for 14 years, and an assistant attorney general for six more. He was appointed to the 16th Circuit in 2001, was voted Chief Judge in 2011, and he’s been “on loan” to the aforementioned Appellate Court since 2012.
Though I’ve had a little journalistic fun with his meteoric judicial rise coming in great part as a result of his long friendship with Illinois Supreme Court Justice Bob Thomas, the truth is, I’ve never heard a bad word about his honor and all judgeship nominations are all about who you know.
And Justice Thomas clearly has good taste because there aren’t many Northern Illinois attorneys who don’t respect and revere Spence, and when you consider just how bizarrely incestuous the justice system is, that’s an incredibly rare accomplishment.
So, why is a man of Spence’s stature coming back to little old Kane County to run for state’s attorney, a job with more headaches than Donald Trump’s wives somehow get every evening? Who’d take a 25 percent pay cut to manage a huge but understaffed office, which regularly reports to the most bizarre County Board I’ve ever covered?
It’s the kind of thing that makes me believe Mr. Spence could use the services of a duly licensed psychotherapist.
To that end, I dug a little deeper, and believe it or not, in a turn even a bit too ironic for me, it all comes down to the same KCSAO sexual harassment scandal The First Ward has been working on for the better part of a year. And there’s a great lesson in humility in it for yours truly as well.
For those who don’t regularly read Quick Hits, I’m in the process of suing the KCSAO to force them to abide by an Attorney General’s ruling requiring them to turn over 255 pages of sexual harassment complaints against just one former prosecutor. Joe McMahon, who firmly believes his office is above the law, continues to defy that ruling.
So, here’s the connection.
One of the brave KCSAO sexual harassment victims not only came to me for help, but she also approached Judge Spence. Being a reason able man, either Spence, or he and Justice Thomas, met with McMahon and insisted he fire this prosecutor and dispense with the office “Boy’s Club.”
He or they told McMahon he was doing himself and the office a disservice by failing to address the harassment.
“But Jeff! Get to the humility part. We love it when folks take you down a notch or two! Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m gettin’ there!
I believed The First Ward was the catalyst for this prosecutor’s termination. Word was McMahon was terrified the explicit text that finally did him in would fall into my hands, and then it would go public. In my defense, had McMahon not canned him, four other ASAs were ready to turn over the text and that would’ve forced his hand.
But it never got to that point.
That means the prosecutor wasn’t fired because of me, he was fired because Judge Spence applied his typical due diligence and shamed McMahon into doing the right thing. Lord! Just when I thought my estimation of our State’s Attorney had finally bottomed out, it manages to plummet even further.
That revelation finally brings us full circle to our question. Aside from a mental defect, why would Bob Spence run for Kane County State’s Attorney?
On a simpler level, the life of an appellate court judge generally consists of reading legal briefs hour after hour, day after day, month after month, and year after year. Sure, you get the occasionally interesting oral argument, but for the most part, it’s not the most scintillating work.
Apparently, after 18 years on the bench, Spence wants to get back to his prosecutor roots. And word is, he wants to clean house and return the State’s Attorney’s Office to some semblance of the respect it had before McMahon almost destroyed it.
What that means is some major KCSAO heads will roll regardless of who prevails in 2020.
This doesn’t mean anyone’s handing Spence the race on a silver platter. Like most judges, he’s not the best campaigner having lost two 16th Circuit elections before he was finally appointed and won the requisite race to remain a full circuit judge. And it would be a huge mistake for Spence and the local GOP to underestimate Mosser who actually knows how to run a county-wide campaign.
Like I said! It will be interesting!