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Buying Time 2010: Illinois

This page features Illinois judicial ads of 2010.

Published: September 19, 2010

In Illinois, Supreme Court justices initially run in contested, partisan elections for full terms, and then run in uncontested retention elections for additional terms.  Historically, Illinois’s contested partisan elections have been expensive and hard-fought.  The state is home to the nation’s costliest judicial election ever, which took place in 2004.  The two candidates in that race, Lloyd Karmeier and Gordon Maag, raised about $9.3 million — more money than was raised in 18 of 34 U.S. Senate races decided that year — a figure that Karmeier, the victorious candidate, described as “obscene.” 

In 2010, three justices — Charles Freeman, Robert Thomas, and Thomas Kilbride — faced retention votes.  (Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald was also due to sit for a retention election, but announced his retirement, effective October 25, 2010, on September 13, 2010.)  While retention elections have not previously seen the same levels of spending as contested elections in Illinois, this year at least one retention contest saw high spending.  Justice Thomas Kilbride faced a spirited campaign to vote him off the bench spearheaded by groups angered by Kilbride’s vote earlier this year to strike down a 2005 law that capped awards for certain medical malpractice claims.  A group called Vote No Kilbride targeted Kilbride because it says he is the court’s swing vote on issues like “tort reform,” and media reports indicate that the race was “flooded with money.”  Kilbride fought back against his critics, and aired an advertisement in which he says “As a judge, I’ve tried every day to be fair and evenhanded, and most of all, to make sure the law works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well connected.”  Kilbridge was retained on November 2, as were Charles Freeman and Robert Thomas.

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October 28, 2010 – Vote No on Kilbride

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A second ad from the Illinois Civil Justice League claims Kilbride votes against law enforcement more than any other justice.

October 26, 2010  Kilbride Response to Bogus Attack

Justice Kilbride radio spot responding to JUSTPAC ad.

October 20, 2010  Demand Fairness

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Justice Kilbride says he has been attacked “harshly, repeatedly, and falsely.”

October 27, 2010 – Overturned Conviction
First aired as a web video October 20, 2010

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An ad from the Illinois Civil Justice League claims Kilbride sides with criminals over law enforcement.

October 11, 2010 – Strong Advocate

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Justice Kilbride is an advocate for victims of crime.

October 6, 2010 – Tough on Crime 3

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Tom Kilbride is tough on crime.

October 5, 2010 – Tough on Crime 2

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Tom Kilbride is tough on crime.

September 29, 2010 – Tough on Crime

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Tom Kilbride is tough on crime.

September 21, 2010 – Not a Politician

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Tom Kilbride claims that he is not a politician.


Illinois Voters Retain High Court Judge, Associated Press, November 3, 2010.

Monique Garcia, State Supreme Court Justice Wins Retention Battle, Chicago Tribune, November 2, 2010.

Kilbride and Madigan, The Chicago Tribune, October 26, 2010.

Carrie Johnson, No Opponent, But Big Money In Illinois Justice’s Race, NPR, October 26, 2010.

Greg Hinz, Big Money Spent to Defeat Illinois Supreme Court Justice Kilbride Shows Flaws in Election System, Chicago Business, October 18, 2010.

Abdon M. Pallasch, State Bar Condemns Ads Attacking Sup. Court Justice, Chicago Sun Times, October 19, 2010.

Ann Knef, Kilbride’s Campaign Takes in $1.8 Million, The Madison-St. Clair Record, October 19, 2010.

For the Supreme Court, Chicago Tribune, October 5, 2010.

Ameet Sachdev, Negative Politics Creep Into Illinois Supreme Court Retention Race, Chicago Tribune, August 24, 2010.