In My Opinion

by Caroline Porter

Why vote in the Primary Election? (March 21)

We've all heard someone smugly say, ''Oh, I never vote in a primary, I don't want to declare a party.'' Or, ''I don't care to be associated with Republicans or Democrats, I just vote for the person in the general election.'' There's only one problem with that. The person they may want to elect might not be on the general election ballot because they weren't nominated in the primary, when the two major political parties nominate their candidates.

In days past, I can understand why area school teachers didn't vote in Primaries. If they were Democrats, they would have been fired. I can understand why many workers at the Hill Correctional Center either don't vote or take a Republican ballot at the Primary election. They have patronage jobs, which is against the law of course, but this is Illinois.

But most of us don't have those restrictions and need to understand that the political party system was designed to nominate and elect office holders in some orderly and fair fashion. Those of us who are active in political party work believe nothing is more important than recruiting and working for good candidates for elective office. And frankly, it's disturbing that people are so sanctimonious about government politics. Some of the politics I've seen in churches, schools and Little League sports would make Democrats and Republicans run for cover.

Even though the presidential primary race seems to decided, there are some other important contests on March 21st. The primary races for Judges of the Supreme and Appellate Courts are critical and there are contests in both parties. On the Republican ballot, State Senator Carl Hawkinson is running against Appellate Court Judge William Holdridge for the Illinois Supreme Court. Even though Hawkinson has been an effective State Senator, (they especially like him in Springfield), I fail to see why he would be considered qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. He has never been a judge and has hardly practiced law since he went to the legislature more than 16 years ago.

Hawkinson says his work as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee would qualify him for the job. This same Judiciary Committee was the architect of three major revisions of criminal law which last year were declared unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court. They all three violated the Single Subject Rule of the Illinois Constitution, intended to prevent lawmakers from piggybacking unpopular provisions onto popular ones.

The ''truth in sentencing'' measure passed in 1995 was overturned and we faced the prospect of Illinois having to release 654 inmates who were convicted of murder under that law and 1,583 convicted of other violent crimes, including armed robbery, rape and other sexual offenses. The legislature had to work quickly to correct a major blunder.

The latest Supreme Court ruling nullified the 1994 Safe Neighborhoods Act and the General Assembly has not been able to revive it. It's scary to think that in this day of frequent death by gunshot, even in the first grade, the legislature could not decide whether carrying a concealed weapon should be considered a felony or misdemeanor.

The three rulings by the Supreme Court regarding unconstitutional legislation passed in the Republican-controlled Illinois legislature between 1994 and 1996 hardly support Hawkinson's claim to be qualified to be a Supreme Court Judge based on his legislative experience.

On the Democratic ticket, there are two candidates for 3rd District Appellate Judge -- Mary McDade of Peoria, whom I have met twice and heard speak. She is running against Tom Dunn, whose campaign literature came from Joliet and contains no background information. Mrs. McDade is an impressive woman who is thoughtful and speaks with compassion and depth. If you're a Democrat, she's a good reason to vote in the primary election.

The Republicans also have an Appellate Court Judge race -- three lawyers vying for one spot. They are Michael Closen, Karen Kendall and Judy Koehler. The race has been down and dirty, which ought to make us feel really good about our higher courts.

The Republicans have a humdinger of a race for the nomination for 17th District Congressional candidate, and must choose Mark Baker, Hal Bayne or Michael Curtiss, one of whom will have to face Lane Evans in November. I refer to my previous column ''Mark Baker is back and running on his record.'' -- his record of losing.

This is a particularly important election year because it is the year of the census, which is followed by the redistricting of most political boundaries -- including Congress, State Senate and Representative, County Board and ward districts. The representatives we elect this year will make these critical decisions and the Appellate and Supreme courts may play a role.

Vote in the March 21st Primary Election, just to support those who have the nerve to get into the fray. You will have served your country well.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online March 14, 2000

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