Anthony Simpkins, a judicial candidate running in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, ran what he thought was a good campaign. He worked to connect with voters and garnered endorsements from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Chicago Tribune. Three prominent bar groups who conduct evaluations of judicial candidates all found Simpkins “qualified” for the bench.
But Tuesday night, voters picked his opponent Rhonda Crawford to fill the South Side judicial sub-circuit vacancy that Simpkins has filled since he was appointed to the post by the Supreme Court in 2014. Crawford was “not recommended” by the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Council of Lawyers (CCL) and the Chicago Bar Association after she failed to participate in the evaluations.
Simpkins told Injustice Watch the loss was a “mystery,” and that he must have missed something when trying to connect with voters.
“The impression that I get is that bar recommendations and evaluations, the newspaper endorsements…I don’t know; I get the impression that voters pretty much ignored that stuff, it just didn’t seem to have much of an impact,” Simpkins said. “What did they base their votes on? I don’t know.”
Before being appointed to the bench, Simpkins had been senior counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department and later deputy commissioner for the city’s Department of Planning and Development. In its rating, the CCL noted Simpkins’s “substantial litigation experience in complex matters both as a practitioner and as a supervisor of other lawyers.”
Crawford has been registered as an attorney for 13 years and currently works as a law clerk at the Markham Courthouse. Simpkins said he wasn’t very familiar with Crawford or her work, noting that she likely has little, if any, litigation experience.
“This was perhaps something the voters didn’t consider, didn’t know about or didn’t find important,” Simpkins said. “It’s not clear exactly what the decision of the voters was based on, but it’s a whole lot of them that made the decision.”
Simpkins lost to Crawford by more than 12,000 votes.
In low voter information races, like judicial elections, voters often cast ballots based on short cuts like the gender and the ethnicity of a candidate’s name. Simpkins said he thought this may have played a role.
“That’s our democratic process,” he said.
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