House Speaker Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch’s wife among clout-heavy winners in primary judge races
ShawnTe Raines-Welch topped three opponents in the Democratic primary race for judge in a suburban judicial district. A candidate tied to Welch’s predecessor, ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, didn’t fare as well.
Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch came out of Tuesday’s Democratic primary a winner — and not only because he faced no challenger in his legislative race.
Flexing his newfound political muscle since succeeding Michael Madigan as House speaker, Welch also helped his wife, attorney ShawnTe Raines-Welch, win her Democratic primary contest for a seat as a Cook County judge from a suburban district.
Raines-Welch bested three opponents in the primary, getting about 35% of the vote. There were no Republicans running for the seat. So, barring last-minute ballot additions before the Nov. 8 general election, she has all but clinched a seat on the bench.
Raines-Welch’s campaign raised around $666,000 — a whopping amount for this type of judicial race and far more than all of her primary opponents.
Of that, more than $100,000 came from a personal loan she made to her campaign, and more than $250,000 came from labor unions generally regarded as friendly to the Democratic Party, records show.
Welch has declined to discuss his role in his wife’s campaign, including fundraising, though sources have said he was involved in various aspects of her election efforts.
In April, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Raines-Welch had gotten a $10,000 campaign contribution that was in violation of a state law enacted with her husband’s support, barring out-of-state financing for judicial candidates in Illinois. The contribution, which Raines-Welch returned, involved a New Jersey healthcare group that had received legislative help from Welch as it sought to reopen a Melrose Park hospital.
Welch became House speaker after Madigan, his mentor and predecessor, stepped down from the Illinois House in 2021 after being linked to a scandal involving ComEd.
Though Madigan once was the state’s top political power, one of his longtime allies, Jim Gleffe, didn’t fare as well in Tuesday’s Democratic primary as Welch’s wife. Gleffe, who was running for judge in a different suburban judicial district, lost to Bernadette Barrett, who drew more than 76% of the vote, with 98% of precincts counted.
Gleffe works for Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, whose niece Chloe Pedersen also ran for judge, coming in second to Raines-Welch. Her campaign raised about $46,000 in contributions, records show.
Another politically well connected candidate, Nicholas Kantas, won Tuesday in his Democratic primary judicial race.
Kantas, a Cook County prosecutor, is married to lobbyist Maren Ronan whose father Al Ronan was a powerhouse lobbyist until his recent retirement. No Republicans ran for that seat, either.