Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. has clinched the coveted endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party, but that’s not scaring appellate justice Nathaniel Howse out of the race for a seat on the state’s top court.
Howse says he’s still running despite not getting the nod from the county’s Democratic committeemen, who issued their slate of candidates Friday.
“I spent Friday evening and the weekend reaching out to supporters,” Howse said Tuesday. “Once [Illinois Secretary of State Jesse] White said he was with me all the way to the end, that clinched it for me.”
Under the weighted voting system the party uses, committeemen cast 478,407 votes in favor of endorsing Neville, who was recommended by the party’s Supreme Court committee Thursday. Just 397,712 votes were needed to get the endorsement. Another 317,014 votes were cast as “present.”
On Thursday, Howse said if he didn’t get the nod from the party he’d have to talk to his supporters before deciding whether to remain in the race. That list of supporters includes White, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th), Pat Dowell (3rd) and Derrick Curtis (18th) as well as support from clergy members, Howse said.
Neville said he has his own list of supporters including U.S. Representatives Danny Davis and Bobby Rush. County Democratic Chair Toni Preckwinkle is also a supporter of Neville.
Howse said the Cook County Board president’s support made the difference for Neville. He said she “pressed hard” for Neville, making it “tough” for Howse to “beat her in her own backyard.”
In addition to Neville and Howse, others vying for the seat include appellate court justices Jesse Reyes, Sheldon Harris, Margaret McBride and Cynthia Cobbs and lawyer Daniel Epstein.
Howse, Cobbs and Neville are all seeking to become the second African American elected to the bench. The first was Charles Freeman, the state Supreme Court justice who tapped Neville as his replacement when he retired last year.
Howse is not worried about splitting the black vote, pointing to this year’s mayoral election in which multiple African American contenders did not lead to a white candidate winning, but instead to two black hopefuls finishing in the top spots.
“I think the same thing can happen here and I think the candidate who can run the best campaign will come out on top, and I think that’s me,” Howse said. “It takes a good candidate and a good campaign.”