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.
With about 95% of precincts counted, Rochford was up 54% to 46% over the former Lake County sheriff who was seeking his first-ever judicial office in a district covering the northwestern and western suburbs.
Curran later confirmed the call, saying he thanked her for a good race. “I’ve known her a long time. She’s a good lady,” he said.
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 95% of precincts counted.
This year, with two vacancies to fill, Republicans believed they had a shot at shifting the court’s 4-3 split 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 told the Sun-Times 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 think I’dcertainly be at a disadvantage.”
At Curran’s election night party at Austin’s Restaurant in Libertyville, supporters said they weren’t concerned about the former sheriff’s lack of experience on the bench if he were to win.
“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.