Kilbride is first Illinois Supreme Court justice to lose retention vote

Kilbride is first Illinois Supreme Court justice to lose retention vote

After receiving $550,000 from Madigan’s Democratic Party of Illinois campaign committee, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride lost his bid to continue on the court. He is the first justice voters failed to retain.

In a historic defeat, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride appears to have failed to pass the 60% threshold needed to stay on the bench.

The loss could tip the Democrats’ 4-3 majority on the court over to a Republican majority. Candidates will compete to fill the seat in 2022 partisan elections. In the interim, the Illinois Supreme Court will appoint another justice as a temporary replacement once Kilbride’s term is up in December.

If the result stands, that would make Kilbride the first sitting Illinois Supreme Court Justice to lose a retention bid since the practice was first adopted in 1964, according to the Daily Herald. Kilbride received only 56.4% of the vote to continue as the justice elected from the Third Judicial District, according to unofficial totals.

The loss comes after a multimillion-dollar campaign battle between pro- and anti-Kilbride committees, including $550,000 from Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s Democratic Party of Illinois campaign committee. All told, Kilbride’s campaign collected over $5.5 million for this election.

Kilbride’s opponents labeled him “Madigan’s favorite judge” in an effort to tie him to the speaker, who is facing a federal corruption probe and discipline from his House peers. Kilbride’s opponents, Citizens for Judicial Fairness, took in nearly $6.2 million.

Kilbride had vowed not to accept funds from any of Madigan’s campaign committees, likely in an attempt to distance himself from the speaker. However, he did not return the Madigan contribution.

Kilbride was the only Supreme Court justice to receive funds from Madigan since 2005, and he received over $2.7 million from the speaker’s Democratic Party of Illinois campaign committee since he was first elected in 2000.

Kilbride had ruled on multiple cases that would be of interest to Madigan over the years.

Kilbride penned the majority opinion in Hooker v. Illinois State Board of Elections, which removed a 2016 referendum from the ballot that would have taken legislative redistricting out of Madigan’s hands and entrusted it to an independent redistricting commission. He has also consistently sided against pension reform, even ruling in favor of allowing the abuse of loopholes in the pension system.

With the recent spate of scandals under the Capitol dome and the failure to return the $550,000 in campaign contributions from the speaker, it stands to reason Kilbride’s association with Madigan hurt him with voters in the Third Judicial District.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!