House Speaker Chris Welch aiming to get a relative elected, as his predecessor Michael Madigan did
And ShawnTe Raines-Welch isn’t the only clout candidate running in the suburban judicial district, which also includes relatives of lobbyist Al Ronan and Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough.
There’s a familiar ring to it — the Illinois House speaker using his political muscle to help get a family member elected to a plum political post.
But this time it isn’t former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who orchestrated the election of his daughter Lisa Madigan first to the Illinois Senate and then as Illinois attorney general.
Madigan’s successor as House speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch, is trying to get his wife ShawnTe Raines-Welch elected a Cook County judge — even going door to door to collect signatures from registered voters to ensure she can get on the June 28 Democratic primary ballot, sources say.
She’s running for one of two open judgeships in a judicial district that includes a portion of the south, west and northwest suburbs that fall, in part, within Welch’s legislative district.
Neither Raines-Welch, who tried last year to get appointed to the bench, nor Welch would comment.
Raines-Welch spokesman David Ormsby says: “The speaker supports and encourages ShawnTe’s decision to run for the fourth subcircuit judicial seat. In fact, he signed her petition and is encouraging others to do the same.”
Ormsby wouldn’t talk about other political figures backing Raines-Welch, but sources say Berwyn attorney Michael Del Galdo, a lawyer for municipal governments including the town of Cicero, is deeply involved in her campaign.
Del Galdo isn’t a household name but has connections to the Chicago area’s powerhouse political figures, including Michael J. Madigan, for whom Del Galdo raised campaign money before Madigan resigned last year amid an ongoing federal investigation into allegations of political corruption.
Del Galdo also is close with Madigan’s son Andrew Madigan, an insurance broker for a company called Alliant that, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported, is used by a number of southwest suburbs that federal agents have visited as part of the same investigation.
And Del Galdo is friends with Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), whose law firm was hired by Del Galdo’s law firm for unspecified “legal services” several years ago, records show, before Burke was charged in another corruption case, accused of trying to muscle a fast-food operator into hiring Burke’s law firm for property tax appeals.
Raines-Welch recently opened her campaign fund with a personal loan of more than $100,000 to fund her run for the $216,297-a-year job, which also comes with a generous taxpayer-subsidized pension, records show.
A lawyer with the Chicago firm Ancel Glink, which represents municipal governments across the suburbs, she could end up in a race against the relative of a sometime-rival of her husband.
Lawyer Chloe Pedersen is running in the same judicial district, though it’s unclear whether she will end up going for the seat Raines-Welch is seeking or a second spot on the bench.
She’s a niece of Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, a former state legislator Welch challenged unsuccessfully more than a decade ago for her seat in the Illinois General Assembly. Yarbrough, who lives in Maywood, is the Democratic committeewoman for Proviso Township, where Welch, of Hillside, previously was president of the high school district board. Raines-Welch once ran unsuccessfully for a seat on that school board.
Pedersen worked as an attorney for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office when Yarbrough ran that agency.
“It’s possible that we could end up” running for “the same vacancy,” Pedersen says of Raines-Welch. “I believe things will have to sort themselves out. Should be interesting.”
Candidates need at least 667 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot, and they must file those petitions from March 7 through March 14, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Nicholas Kantas is running for the fourth subcircuit judicial seat that Raines-Welch isn’t seeking. Kantas’ wife Maren Ronan is a lobbyist for, among others, one of the major players in the red-light camera industry as well as municipalities such as Melrose Park that fall at least partly in the subcircuit in which her husband is running.
Ronan is a daughter of Al Ronan, a former state legislator who was among former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s key fund-raisers and was known for handing out cash campaign contributions to legislators inside the statehouse.
Ronan’s former lobbying firm was disbanded after the business pleaded guilty to charges in a bid-rigging scandal in the early 2000s.
Through a spokeswoman, Kantas says: “For 17 years, I’ve served as a prosecutor and built a reputation of a fair and diligent litigator, and I will continue serving with integrity. I appreciate the full support of my wife, just as I support her, but I am not involved in her business. My father-in-law is retired and remains focused on his health. I will continue to lead my campaign on my own merits.”
Del Galdo, who won’t comment, is helping run Kantas’ campaign, sources say.
Welch also is running to hold onto his legislative seat.
Raines-Welch says in a written statement, “As the candidate, I am in charge of my own campaign. I contributed — out of my own pocket and not my husband’s — $100,100 to my campaign and have organized my own team. If my husband needs help with his re-election campaign to the Illinois House, I will be happy to lend a hand. In the meantime, the outcome of my race depends on my qualifications and my efforts. Period.”
Her web site says bar associations have found her “qualified and recommended” but she won’t identify those groups.
Ormsby says that will be released by the campaign on “its own calendar.”