With early voting fast approaching, one of the more contentious ballot issues this election year is the retention of a member of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Judge Thomas Kilbride is seeking another 10-year term on the bench, but a newly formed coalition wants to prevent that from happening. The Illinois Republican Party has launched a “Vote No on Kilbride” campaign, with more 500 elected officials and community leaders from the 3rd Judicial District making up the coalition.

Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider, who held rallies Tuesday in Joliet, Peoria and Rock Island, called Kilbride a pawn of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“Time and time again, Kilbride has sided with government insiders and special interests over taxpayers, leading to higher taxes and more corruption here in the most corrupt state in the nation,” Schneider said.

Schneider noted that Kilbride raised nearly $2.5 million to retain his seat in 2010. Schneider said the money came from Madigan and organized labor. This year, Schneider said the Illinois Democratic Party has kicked in $1.4 million.

“We are not going to raise the money they are going to raise, but we are going to get the grassroots people out and get the word out that Thomas Kilbride needs to be replaced on the Illinois Supreme Court,” Schneider said.

Just days before mail-in ballots are sent out, Kilbride started a television ad campaign and said he has received endorsements from law enforcement and elected officials from the 3rd Judicial District. They include Putnam County Sheriff Kevin Doyle, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe and Bureau County Sheriff Jim Reed.

“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of such a diverse group of law enforcement officials and members of the legal community,” Kilbride said in a statement. “In these highly polarized times, I am grateful that, though they may be Republicans, Democrats or Independents, they have set party aside to express their confidence in my fairness and belief that ‘equal justice under law’ is not merely a phrase carved into the marble above a court’s entryway, it is the bedrock principle that guides every decision I make. The people of Illinois deserve nothing less.”

To retain his position on the high court, Kilbride will need 60 percent of the vote. If he is defeated, there would be an election in two years.

Schneider said the bottom line is that Kilbride must not be allowed to serve another 10 years.

“We haven’t been able to exact any tort reform, any pension reform, he’s blocked the fair maps citizen-led initiative, and I think if we get the word out and let them know, I think we can easily win this non-retention campaign,” Schneider said.

The 3rd Judicial District covers 21 counties across the central-north part of Illinois, including Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Warren, Henry, Mercer, Rock Island, Whiteside, Marshall, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell, Bureau, Grundy, LaSalle, Iroquois, Kankakee and Will counties. The Third District Appellate Court is based in Ottawa.

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