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Highland Park mayor launches bid for state’s top court, promising ‘unbiased, fair and balanced’ rulings

Nancy Rotering, a Democrat in her third term a mayor of the North Shore suburb, said in a statement she’s running to “ensure access to justice for all.”

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering makes her pitch for attorney general to members of the Cook County Democratic Party in 2017.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering makes her pitch for attorney general to members of the Cook County Democratic Party in 2017.
Logan Javage/Sun-Times file

Vowing to “ensure access to justice for all, the mayor of Highland Park launched her bid for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday, setting the stage for what could be a hotly contested race to represent a newly redrawn district on the state’s top court.

Making her third run for higher office in five years, Nancy Rotering, a Democrat in her third term as mayor of the North Shore suburb, joins Democratic and Republican judges in Lake County who are also vying for the seat formerly held by Justice Robert Thomas.

“My mission is to uphold the rule of law and make sure that all Illinoisans have an unbiased, fair and balanced adjudication of the major cases facing our state,” Rotering said in a statement announcing her candidacy.

“I look forward to continuing to put my background in law and business, coupled with my public service commitment to ethics and accountability, to work for the people of Illinois.”

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks at an Illinois attorney general candidate forum in 2018.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks at an Illinois attorney general candidate forum in 2018.
Erin Brown/Sun-Times file

The Highland Park mayor has worked as an attorney for over 30 years and previously served on the Highland Park City Council, according to a news release announcing her candidacy.

With her Illinois Supreme Court run, the veteran attorney will have run for offices in all three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial.

Rotering ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for Illinois attorney general, coming in fourth in the eight-candidate Democratic primary. Kwame Raoul won that primary and the general election.

Two years earlier, Rotering waged a campaign to represent the north suburban 10th Congressional District, losing in the Democratic primary to Brad Schneider, who garnered 54% of the vote and went on to beat Republican incumbent Bob Dold in November of 2016.

Democratic candidates for Illinois attorney general, from left, Pat Quinn, Aaron Goldstein, Scott Drury, Nancy Rotering, Kwame Raoul, Sharon Fairley, Jesse Ruiz and Renato Mariotti meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2018.
Democratic candidates for Illinois attorney general, from left, Pat Quinn, Aaron Goldstein, Scott Drury, Nancy Rotering, Kwame Raoul, Sharon Fairley, Jesse Ruiz and Renato Mariotti meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2018.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Kicking off her run for the state’s top court, Rotering announced a slew of endorsements, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, the mayors of Deerfield, Buffalo Grove and Fox Lake as well as Democratic state Representatives Bob Morgan of Deerfield, Dan Didech of Buffalo Grove, Sam Yingling of Grayslake and Joyce Mason of Gurnee.

Elizabeth Rochford, an associate judge in Lake County, is also running as a Democrat for the Supreme Court seat, which now covers Lake, McHenry, Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties.

Daniel Shanes, a Lake County judge, plans to run as a Republican for the Second District seat in next year’s June 28 primary.

A conservative Republican and former Chicago Bears kicker, Thomas held the seat for two decades. His retirement last year sparked GOP fears that the party would lose the seat on the state’s highest court.

Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas.
Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas.
Capitol News Illinois

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke was appointed to the Second District seat last March after Thomas retired.

A spokesman for Burke, a Republican, said he plans to seek a full term in the Third District after Democrats in the General Assembly earlier this year drew Burke, and all of DuPage County, out of the Second District boundaries.

The Third District was once represented by Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat who last year became the first state Supreme Court justice in Illinois history to fail to win retention.

After that loss, Democrats redrew the boundaries for the Illinois Supreme Court districts this year for the first time since 1963 — though Republicans attempted to change the lines in 1997 with their Judicial Redistricting Act before it was ruled unconstitutional.

Legislators shifted the boundaries of the Third District that Kilbride once represented, condensing it to a smaller land area and shifting some counties, including DuPage, within its borders.

Under the new maps, which were signed into law in early June, the number of residents in the Supreme Court’s Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth districts will be “substantially equalized to better reflect the population and demographic shifts that have occurred in the state of Illinois over the course of the last sixty years,” according to a news release at the time on the proposed judicial boundaries.