benc's blog

IL March 2020 Endorsements

March 4, 2020 • ☕️☕️☕️☕️ 19 min read

These are my "endorsements"1 for the March 2020 primary election. I'm voting with a Democratic ballot and you can find the ballot that I'm working with here.

I have to come up with these recommendations for myself every year - here's me sharing them! A few principles that I work off of:

  • I'm a progressive in most every sense.
  • I define that progressivism in terms of net benefit. That has a couple implications:

    • I do my best to not vote on identity, but to vote on policy and electability2.
    • I sometimes make compromises that leave a bad taste in my mouth but I think will lead to more progressive policy overall.
  • Somewhat paradoxically, I'm one of those high information/involvement voters that political scientists have established vote more on identity rather than personal interest (I'm very happy to raise my own taxes). I do my best to align my identity with what I think the best policy for my values are. This fails sometimes.
  • I have some... weird pet issues. For example, I'm a big proponent of removing cars from cities3 which uh... has no popular support.

If you disagree with those, that's fine - just keep them in mind when reading this guide.

This guide was distilled from me reading their platforms, from theChicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune's endorsements, and my assorted personal knowledge of IL politics.

Post-election note: I've put down who won for each position next to my endorsement.


President, US (Democratic Ballot)

This section probably doesn't matter. Realistically, you've probably made up your mind or are leaning some way. That said, here's my choice and logic

At the time I'm writing this (March 4, 2020), there are three real candidates in the race4:

  • Bernie Sanders
  • Joe Biden
  • Elizabeth Warren

The math says that Elizabeth Warren can't win. She's out. Update: she dropped out one day later.

Bernie vs Biden should be a close choice but it really isn't. I actually think I agree with Bernie's economic world view more. Two big things stand in the way of me voting for him though:

  • Bernie's view on race is bad. From suggesting that Biden's current lead (based on his support by African-American voters) is less legitimate or not from "working-class" people to his view that economic issues are the major difference between white and black Americans' relative success, his views are bad. It says a lot that, of the several "bad" party-supported votes during his career, of which he mostly bucked the party and voted in the correct direction, the '94 crime bill is where he agreed with the party (yes, I know Biden also voted for and wrote part of that bill).
  • Bernie's implementation of his world view is bad. The progressive takeaway from the fact that "trade deals bring a lot of prosperity to some people but screw over others" should be that taxes and redistributionto to fix that externality - not banning trade deals. The progressive conclusion to fact that "US hospitals charge insurers way more than peer countries' hopstials do" is not "let's make the government the only insurer overpaying greedy hospitals and doctors"5, it's to lower the fucking prices. Basically, Bernie is a progressive who has only read Jacobin and never read Vox.

Therefore, I support Joe Biden. He's running on a platform far to Obama's left, he probably maximizes Dem chances of winning Senate seats in places like Alabama6, and I think his experiences means he'd do a good job repairing a destroyed civil service. Whatever criticisms you have of Biden: there's a solid chance I agree with them. Politics is about picking the least bad choice though; it's not all a fairytale.

Endorsement: Joe Biden. Victor: Joe Biden.

US Senator

Durbin is unopposed and him being in Dem leadership is good for Illinoisans. It gets us stuff like funding for the O'Hare Modernization Program (the reconfiguration of the runways). I don't think a protest vote omission is justified here.

Endorsement: Dick Durbin. Victor: Dick Durbin.

US Representative

There are three candidates here:

  • Raja Krishnamoorthi (incumbent)
  • William Olson
  • Inam Hussain

Inam Hussein seems like a decent man and I like his background. His answers were good in the Chicago Sun-Times interview.

However, Raja's interview just blows it out of the water. It's fabulously detailed, he's been an unusually effective Congressperson for being so new to the House, and (personally) has been very receptive to my concerns.

As for William Olson, this is a real thing he said in response to the Sun-Times asking "[w]hat’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?""

I might have answered a better question with this: By the power and authority vested in a citizen of the State of Illinois, I declare Donald John Trump a domestic enemy of the State of Illinois.

I can't even.

Note (3/7/20): I'm temporarily pulling my endorsement for Raja. A friend of mine pointed me to troubling support he might have for Narendra Modi. I'm going to reach out to his office to get clarification. In the meantime, I suggest you try to delay voting.

Note (3/16/20): Raja never responded to me but upon further research, I determined he's probably not a Hindu nationalist (I looked at his past votes and comments). Even if he is, the marginal effect a representative has on this is small. In every other way, he is the superior choice so he is endorsed. I meant what I said when I said I defined my progressivism by net impact, not identity.

That said, I want to note that this is a serious and real issue. Narendra Modi is tearing apart arguably democracy's greatest achievement (democracy struggles in multi-ethnic countries and basically collapses in non-developed countries. India is a shining exception.). To the extent we can, we should fight to stop him.

Endorsement: Raja Krishnamoorthi. Victor: Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Delegates to National Nominating Convention

These folks go to the DNC Convention in Minneapolis, and formally vote for the the nominee. They're technically not required to vote for the person they are pledged to (which is mentioned on the ballot) but they basically always do.

Vote for whomever supports your Presidential candidate. I'm voting for Biden's. Victor: Biden's.

State Senator, 28th Senate District

Laura Murphy is running unopposed.

As a member of IL legislative leadership, a good rule of thumb is that she's not great. Laura Murphy doesn't disappoint. She has been part of IL's mismanagement of the state.

As an aside, she's also been a rabble rouser about O'Hare noise. I'm not particularly sympathetic to suburbs complaining about the consequences of suburbanization (and am glad that she is typically overruled) but it's her job to represent her constituent's opinions. Concentrated costs, and diffuse harms, man.

I'll be voting for no one here but that's just me utilizing the luxury of a protest vote. I expect I would vote for her in November.

Endorsement: No one. Victor: Laura Murphy.

State Representative, 56th Representative District

Michelle Mussman is running unopposed.

She's concerningly close to Madigan and has had a few bad #MeToo associated votes. I'll vote for her but it's a close call.

Endorsement: Michelle Mussman. Victor: Michelle Mussman.

Commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD)

It's insane that we're voting on this at all and that's it's separated by party. This is a highly technical position with not a lot of political influence or decisions. The best we can do here is pretend we know how water, land, and the environment should be managed, and vote based on what the experts say.

Here are the candidates:

  • Michael G. Grace
  • Mike Cashman
  • Frank Avila (incumbent)
  • Heather Boyle
  • M Cameron 'Cam' Davis (incumbent)
  • Kimberly Neely Dubuclet (incumbent)
  • Eira L. Corral Sepúlveda
  • Patricia Theresa Flynn
  • Shundar Lin
  • Deyon Dean

I'll be heavily relying on endorsements here. Conveniently, the Tribune and the Sun-Times agree with each other on endorsements.

Davis is a no-brainer. He used to work for the EPA, was President Obama's point person on the Great Lakes, and has led the fight against the invasive Asian Carp in the Great Lakes.

Kimberly DuBuclet used to be in charge of the Chicago Park District's legislative affairs, and has done good work with encouraging greener construction. She obviously knows what she's talking about based on her Sun-Times interview.

Eira Sepúlveda has an exceptionally cool background. She's a village trustee for Hanover Park but she got into the MWRD's work because she walked her kids to work on the MWRD's property (the MWRD is the second biggest landowner in Cook County), and when her home flooded, she did her own research to figure out how things work. I adore people who figure shit out for themselves.

One last note: Frank Avila is a long time member. He certainly understands the problem domain. My guess is he's not getting the endorsement because the MWRD has had frequent corruption with which probability would tell you he's been involved, given the length of his tenure.

Endorsement: Cameron Davis, Kimberly DuBuclet, and Eira Sepúlveda. Victors: Cameron Davis, Kimberly DuBuclet, and Eira Sepúlveda.

State's Attorney, Cook County

With the possible exception of the Presidential race, this is the most important race on the ballot. This job involves taking the information that police give and deciding who to charge. This has tremendous influence on our criminal justice system. Supposedly liberal white voters voted to disproportionately jail black people for decades (remember, most mass incarceration happens on the state level) by pulling the lever on "tough on crime". Luckily, we have a new generation of progressive prosecuters (Larry Krasner from Philadelphia leading the charge) who aren't continuing that. That said, there's other issues in this race.

Here are the candidates:

  • Kim Foxx (incumbent)
  • Bill Conway
  • Donna More
  • Bob Fioretti

Kim Foxx was first elected in 2016. There is good evidence that she has done a better job prosecuting violent gun crime than her predecessor8 while also dropping ridiculous crime prosectuions (apparently the most prosecuted crime at the time was retail theft). Shootings have decreased and prosecutions for petty crimes have as well. She is endorsed by the Sun-Times.

I think she's done good work with reforming bail. That said, the Tribune endorsement (which she does not get) criticizes this reform based on the underlying data being faulty. I think the Tribune is correct. However, the consequence of the Tribune being right would be that the violent crime rate for those let go on bail would be approximately 2%, instead of .5% (note that the analysis they're correcting is not Kim Foxx's - she did not perform the program review). Chicago's base violent crime rate is a little higher than 1%. That's certainly an increase but not one that justifies jailing more people, in my opinion. In particular, I can't justify voting to jail people if we aren't doing things like investing in transit and schools in the historically underresourced and disrespected communities from which criminals often come.

The other big issue she's had is the Jussie Smollett case. Basically, a celebrity (from Empire, I believe) faked a mugging and Kim Foxx didn't charge him, possibly because of political connections (the special prosecuter report is pending). This was obviously bad and Kim Foxx shouldn't have done it. Additionally, her expressed regret doesn't seem entirely genuine because she believes her chief mistake was not being transparent, not doing it in the first place.

Bill Conway has been incessantly sending flyers to my house. I'm not too impressed by his experience, I'd prefer to vote for someone more representative of the Cook County community, and his rhetoric in his endorsement interview was slightly troubling. I don't see a great reason to vote for him but I doubt he'd be actively bad if he won.

Donna More lost the 2016 primary to Kim Foxx. Frankly, I can see why. In her Tribune interview, she said we should prioritize retail felony theft cases more because they're "easy to prosecute" (the reason they're easy to prosecute is that it's very easy for prosecutors to force a guilty plea out of the predominately low-income and black populations this charge is wielded against). She has repeated Fraternal Order of Police (the police union) talking points about violent crime lawlessness, and she has suggested further use of civil asset forfeiture (explained here). It's a good sign that one of the "tough on crime" candidates is significantly more progressive that the incumbent was in the 2016 primary but I still think she would be worse than the other options. She is endorsed by the Tribune.

Bob Fioretti was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, and believes in more prosecution and jailing. He has repeated the narrative that Kim Foxx is waging a war on the police. Just no.

Kim Foxx has done good things in terms of reducing crime and not over-prosecuting. If the nadir of her performance is letting a small time celebrity fake a mugging and get away with it, I'll take it.

Endorsement: Kim Foxx. Victor: Kim Foxx.

Clerk of the Circuit Court, Cook County

The current clerk is insanely incompetent. Court files are mostly paper and they're literally losing them before lawyers can see them. This would have been unacceptable in a pre-digital world, now it's embarassing. The incumbent is stepping down (she was a real weirdo: she made everyone who worked for her wear smocks). This isn't really a political position - it involves sorting files - but it requires political courage to pull off. The person who takes this job will likely have to reduce headcount and treat every case equally, to ensure the privileged can't rely on the Clerk's well-timed incompetence to lose their files. There are 4 candidates:

  • Jacob Meister
  • Iris Y. Martinez
  • Richard R. Boykin
  • Michael M. Cabonargi

In situations like this (where it's mostly about competence, not having a certain political viewpoint), I like to trust the Tribune's endorsement. It's typically more cyncial about the IL Democratic Party than the Sun-Times is. Cabonargi is endorsed by the IL Democratic Party and the Sun-Times but Boykin has has an independent streak, is against wasteful government (which is a good thing: you want a Clerk's office to be lean and mean).

Martinez and Meister do not seem like bad choices by any means. I'm trusting that the Tribune's endorsement process did a good job sniffing out competency. For what it's worth, Boykin's answers were much more detailed.

Endorsement: Richard Boykin. Victor: Iris Y. Martinez.

Commissioner, Board of Review 1st District

This is really important. These folks review property tax assessments and decide whether to reduce taxes or not. This system has been corrupt for decades, undervaluing wealthy peoples' properties and overvaluing normal peoples' which means the not-wealthy pay a disproportionate share of property taxes. In 2018, Cook County voted down the idiot making the bad assessments and appointed Fritz Kaegi as County Assessor. This Board of Review functions as the appeals process for the new (good) assessments, made by Fritz Kaegi. There are two candidates:

  • Abdelnasser Rashid
  • Tammy Wendt

Rashid is obviously qualified but he used to work for Fritz Kaegi, creating a potential conflict of interest. The Tribune was skeptical but still endorsed him, despite that. The Sun-Times was less skeptical but also endorsed him.

Wendt is a lawer for Jason van Dyke, former CPD officer and murderer of innocent teenager. Absolutely not.

Endorsement: Abdelnasser Rashid. Victor: Tammy Wendt


Judges are irritating to vote for, and honestly we shouldn't be voting for them. There's good evidence they give harsher sentences during election years to appeal to voters. They should be nominated through the executive branch and confirmed through the legislative branch.

Nevertheless, we have to vote for them. I will be using guides from Bar Assocations and the like. They are listed here. In particular, I'll be emphasizing aggregation of recommendations and Injustice Watch's guide. If a candidate lacks a recommendation from any Bar organization, I will not be endorsing them because the median is having all recommendations.

Additionally, I will not recommend any candidate who is a former prosecuter or has the Fraternal Order of Police's endorsement.

I'll also be skimming their platforms (where it exists) to confirm there's no tough-on-crime nonsense in them.

There will frequently be many candidates tied. In those cases, I'll say who I'm voting for but not provide an "endorsement", per se.

Judge, Illinois Supreme Court

Vacancy of Freeman

There are 7 choices:

  • Jesse G Reyes
  • P. Scott Neville, Jr.
  • Shelly A. Harris
  • Cynthia Y. Cobbs
  • Margaret Stanton McBride
  • Daniel Epstein
  • Nathaniel Roosevelt Howse

As pointed out to me on Twitter, the IL Supreme Court doesn't just make decisions, they also administer the full judicial system. Therefore, after limiting the pool based on bar endorsements, I'll be evaluating them closer to how I evaluate the non-judge positions.

All but Harris and Epstein are well recommended. McBride is a former prosecuter.

Both the Sun-Times and the Tribune endorse P. Neville Jr. I'm not well qualified to evaluate lawyers, and his endorsements and records seem solid.

Endorsement: P. Scott Neville Jr. Victor: P. Scott Neville Jr.

Judge, Illinois Appellate Court, 1st District

Vacancy of Neville, Jr.

There are 4 candidates:

  • Maureen Patricia O'Leary
  • Carolyn J. Gallagher
  • Sandra Gisela Ramos
  • Michael B. Hyman

Everyone except Hyman is not well recommended.

Endorsement: Michael B. Hyman. Victor: Michael B. Hyman

Vacancy of Simon

There are 2 candidates:

  • John Griffin
  • Sharon O. Johnson

Both are well recommended. Sharon o. Johnson didn't have great recommendations last time she ran but I prefer her experience (family law vs property law). That said, John Griffin has a better and longer history and a good track record of just rulings.

I'm voting for: John Griffin Victor: Sharon Johnson.

Judge, Cook County Judicial Circuit

Vacancy of Bellows

There are 3 candidates:

  • Tiesha L. Smith
  • Cristin Keely McDonald Duffy
  • Kerrie Maloney Laytin

Smith has no recommendations, and Duffy used to be a prosecuter.

Endorsement: Kerrie Maloney Laytin Victor: Tiesha L. Smith.

Vacancy of Coghlan

There are 4 candidates:

  • Kelly Marie McCarthy
  • Aileen Bhandari
  • Elizabeth 'Beth' Ryan
  • James T. Derico, Jr

All are well recommended. Bhandari used to be a prosecuter. Derico is the Democratic Party Endorsement and I like his history of pro bono work.

I'm voting for: James T. Derico. Victor: Kelly McCarthy

Vacancy of Ford

There are 3 candidates:

  • U. O'Neal
  • Laura Ayala-Gonzalez
  • John O'Meara

O'Neal is not recommended. Ayala-Gonzalez is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and used to be a prosecutor.

Endorsement: John O'Meara. Victor: Laura Ayala-Gonzalez.

Vacancy of Funderburk

There are 4 candidates:

  • Jacqueline Marie Griffin
  • Daniel L. Collins
  • Mary Therese Quinn
  • Celestia L. Mays

All but Griffin are well recommended. All but Mays are former prosecutors.

Endorsement: Celestia L. Mays. Victor: Celestia L. Mays.

Vacancy of Larsen

There are 3 candidates

  • Levander 'Van' Smith, Jr.
  • Suzanne Therese McEneely
  • Megan Kathleen Mulay

All are well recommended. All but McEneely are former prosecutors.

Endorsement: Suzanne Therese McEneely Victor: Levander Smith Jr.

Vacancy of Mason

There are 6 candidates:

  • Arthur D. Sutton
  • Bonnie Carol McGrath
  • Jennifer Particia Callahan
  • Chris Stacey
  • Joy E. Tolbert Nelson
  • Joseph Chico

All but Callahan and Stacey are not recommended. Callahan is a former prosecutor.

Endorsement: Chris Stacey Victor: Chris Stacey.

Vacancy of McCarthy

There are 2 candidates:

  • Teresa Molina
  • Michael O'Malley

Both are well recommended but both are former prosecutors. O'Malley is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Endorsement: Teresa Molina Victor: Teresa Molina

Vacancy of Murphy Gorman

There are 4 candidates:

  • Sheree Desiree Henry
  • Dan Walsh
  • Amanda 'Mandy' Pillsbury
  • Keely Patricia Hillison

Only Henry is well recommended. The Illinois State Bar Assocation noted her "sensitivity to racial and ethnic diversity issues" which is a big plus for me.

Endorsement: Sheree Desiree Henry Victor: Sheree Henry

Vacancy of O'Brien

There are 3 candidates:

  • Elizabeth Anne Walsh
  • Lloyd James Brooks
  • Heather Anne Kent

All are well recommended. Kent is a former prosecutor.

I'm voting for: Lloyd James Brooks Victor: Elizabeth Walsh

Vacancy of Patti

Lynn Weaver Boyle is running unopposed.

Luckily, she is well recommended. Unfortunately, she is a former prosecutor. I'm excercising the luxury of a protest vote here.

I'm voting for: no one Victor: Lynn Waaver Boyle

Vacancy of Roti

There are 3 candidates:

  • Lorraine Mary Murphy
  • James Patrick Crawley
  • Araceli Reyes De La Cruz

All but De La Cruz are well recommended. Murphy is a former prosecutor.

Endorsement: James Patrick Crawley Victor: Lorraine Murphy

Vacancy of C. Sheehan

There are 3 candidates:

  • Deidre Baumann
  • Maura McMahon Zeller
  • Russel W. Hartigan

All but Hartigan are not recommended.

Endorsement: Russell Hartigan Victor: Maura Zeller

Vacancy of K. Sheehan

There are 3 candidates:

  • Jill Rose Quinn
  • James Samuel Worley
  • Wendelin 'Wendi' DeLoach

All but Quinn are not recommended.

Endorsement: Jill Rose Quinn Victor: Jill Rose Quinn

Judge, 13th Cook County Subcircuit

Vacancy of Kulys Hoffman

There are 5 candidates:

  • Joe Gump
  • Matt Flamm
  • Michael Harry Minton
  • Susanne Michele Groebner
  • Michael P. Gerber

Minton and Groebner are not recommended. Groebner and Gerber are former prosecutors. Joe Gump is a former public defender.

Endorsement: Joe Gump Victor: Susanne Groebner


These are mostly dumb but might as well write them down.

Village of Hoffman Estates, Referendum Question 2

"Shall the Village of Hoffman Estates encourage the State of Illinois to appoint judges based on merit?"

Sure, why not.

Endorsement: Yes Chosen: yes

Village of Hoffman Estates, Referendum Question 3

"Shall the Village of Hoffman Estates encourage the development of entertainment venues within the Village of Hoffman Estates' Economic Development Area?"

Again, sure, why not. Development is good.

Endorsement: yes Chosen: yes

Village of Hoffman Estates, Referendum Question 1

Shall the Village of Hoffman Estates encourage the creation of a full interchange at Beverly Road and the I-90 Jane Addams Memorial Tollway?

OK let's look at the map:

Beverly Road Interchange

You see that you can already get on I-90E (towards the city) from Beverly Road. You just can't get on I-90W towards Rockford and Elgin from Beverly Road, you have to drive 1 mile to Sutton Road.

This is really really stupid. The reason it's easier to go east than west right now is because more people would rather go to Chicago than Rockford. There's no need to super-serve the few westbound people.

Going back to my anti-car views, this being a dumb project makes me like it more (not enough to vote for it). Making it easier to drive induces demand to drive (this is why highway widening never fixes traffic, it creates traffic). Making it slightly easier to go to Rockford will still induce some driving but far less than making it easier to go to Chicgao would.

Still, this is a bad idea and bad ideas should be voted down.

Endorsement: No Chosen: yes

  1. I'm co-opting the term that we apply to real political actors, hence the quotes. Some people may call this a voting guide but I think that describes a document that tries to distill your values into a vote. I'm explaining how I distilled my values into a vote

  2. A good and depressing example of that is Elizabeth Warren. I like the way she approaches problems and I think she's the candidate I'd like to "get a beer with"... but I think many of her polices are bad even if I like the way she got to them.

  3. And Nashville.

  4. Tulsi Gabbari is what would happen if the fairy that brought Pinocchio to life also brought a Russian Twitter bot to life.

  5. Seriously: US Doctors make way more than their peers in wealthy countries because the American Medical Association artificially limits the supply of Doctors. The math of US healthcare means that we will either perpetually overpay or we need to figure out a way to deal with this. Bernie has talked about universal healthcare for decades and has barely mentioned this. That's bad.

  6. It says a lot that Doug Jones had Joe Biden record robocalls for him in his 2017 Alabama special election.

  7. Irritatingly, the Sun-Times frequently ommitted the accent in their endorsement article. I'm assuming this is because the ballot also does. Do better, Cook County.

  8. I voted for her predecessor out of a moment of laziness. I am very glad that my vote lost.