CHICAGO (CBS) — One week after Illinois Supreme Court Justice conceded defeat in his bid for retention to a third 10-year term, the state’s highest court has unanimously chosen Illinois Appellate Court Justice Robert Carter to fill Kilbride’s seat until the next election in 2022.
Although the result of last week’s retention election is not yet official, Kilbride has conceded he won’t get the 60% vote needed to keep his seat after his current term expires in December.
The remaining six justices on the Illinois Supreme Court voted to appoint Carter to fill Kilbride’s vacancy, effective Dec. 8. He will hold the seat until Dec. 5, 2022, when the vacancy will be filled by the November 2022 election. Carter said he won’t run for a full term in 2022.
“I am humbled by the confidence and trust the Court has placed in me as it is the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court,” Carter said in a statement. “It is a place where I first started my career as a law clerk to Justice Howard Ryan and it is where I will retire after this two-year appointment as I won’t seek to run for this seat in 2022.”
Carter, 74, has been a judge since 1979, when he was first appointed as an associate judge. In 1988, he was elected as a Democrat as a circuit judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit, which covers Grundy, Bureau, and LaSalle counties, becoming chief judge in 1993. He was assigned to the 3rd District Appellate court in north-central Illinois in 2006.
Kilbride, who also was first elected a judge as a Democrat, had been targeted for defeat in a well-funded campaign financed by wealthy Illinois Republicans. Republicans were hoping the state’s highest court would deadlock on a vote for Kilbride’s interim successor, leaving the court with a 3-3 split among Democrats and Republicans.
The court’s unanimous vote, however, leaves the court with a 4-3 Democratic majority.
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Republicans made a concerted effort to defeat Kilbride, portraying him as a puppet for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was implicated earlier this year in a sweeping federal bribery case against ComEd, which has admitted to trying to influence legislation by providing jobs and contracts to the speaker’s allies.
While Kilbride has received millions of dollars in campaign funds from the Madigan-controlled Democratic Party of Illinois over the years, he has said those donations never played any role in his rulings from the bench. He’s dismissed Republican attacks on his record as mudslinging.
The fight led to a record-setting haul of contributions to both sides, with more than $11.7 million in donations combined, the most ever for an Illinois Supreme Court race.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin was the largest donor to the effort to vote Kilbride out, contributing $4.5 million to the anti-Kilbride committee Citizens for Judicial Fairness. The committee has raised a total of $6,189,500 in contributions, including $1 million from conservative mega-donor Richard Uihlein, $350,000 from conservative think tank Illinois Opportunity Project, and $75,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national caucus of GOP state leaders.
Meantime, Kilbride’s campaign committee, Kilbride for Supreme Court Judge Committee, raised $5,540,494.49, largely from various labor unions. His largest single donation came from the Democratic Party of Illinois, controlled by Madigan.