Two lawyers with local ties are vying to become a judge. But to get to the bench they will have to defeat the wife of the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.
ShawnTe Raines-Welch, who is married to House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside), will face three opponents in the June 28 Democratic primary race to fill the Rogers vacancy in the 4th Judicial Subcircuit which covers western Cook County from just south of O’Hare Airport to Palos Township, including Riverside resident Chloe Pedersen, former Brookfield resident Jerry Barrido and Patrick Campanelli, an attorney with a solo practice.
Pedersen and Raines-Welch both have strong political connections. Pedersen is the niece of Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough. Some might see the race as sort of a rematch of a 2006 primary when Chris Welch, then the president of the Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education, challenged then state Rep. Yarbrough in the Democratic primary. Yarbrough handily won that matchup with nearly 73 percent of the vote.
Pedersen, who is an equity partner and head of the labor and employment law practice at Chicago law firm of Fletcher & Sippel, says political connections and the past Yarbrough-Welch race are not relevant in this race.
“I don’t see it that way,” Pedersen said. “Karen Yarbrough wasn’t out circulating petitions for me. I’m the one who’s on the ballot. It’s my experience, my background, my time, energy and effort that will be put to the voters. It doesn’t matter who my family might be, that’s not what the voters are going to vote on.”
Raines-Welch is a partner at the law firm of AncelGlink, a law firm that specializes in municipal law. According to her campaign website, Raines-Welch represents multiple municipalities and suburban school districts. Raines-Welch graduated from the John Marshall Law School and started her career as a plaintiff’s lawyer. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UIC.
Raines-Welch ran for public office once before but was unsuccessful finishing fifth in a field of seven candidates in a 2015 race for the Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education.
Both Raines-Welch and Pedersen have served on the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission.
The Landmark reached out to Raines-Welch for an interview, but a representative of her campaign said on March 14 that Raines-Welch had promised to do her first interview with another reporter and asked that the Landmark submit questions for her by email.
“I am running for judge because we need judges who can relate to a diverse community and people from all backgrounds to truly provide justice for all,” Raines-Welch said in an email to the Landmark. “As a longtime resident of the area and graduate of Proviso West High School, I have strong ties to our local community and understand the challenges our families face each day. I feel that my 12 years of litigation experience in diverse areas of law including civil rights, disability rights and labor and employment law have also given me important background and perspective.”
Raines-Welch said that she should be judged on her own qualifications and not who she is married to.
“I would expect that voters will give fair consideration to my credentials, accomplishments and qualifications as the candidate,” Raines Welch wrote. “It is my name on the ballot and voters should judge me on my own record.”
Raines-Welch lent her campaign $100,100 on Feb. 2 and has received $20,000 campaign contributions from the carpenters’ union political action committee and from the Chicago Land Operators Labor-Management political action committee.
“I don’t know what a labor union PAC has to do with electing someone for judge,” said Barrido, who unsuccessfully ran for judge countywide in 2018.
But Raines-Welch said that she personally had nothing to do with those campaign contributions.
“As a judicial candidate, I am prohibited from personally soliciting funds and it is the Campaign Committee, Raines-Welch for Judge, that handles all fundraising and campaign finance matters,” Raines-Welch wrote. “Multiple generations of my family have been members of – and deeply involved in – labor unions and I believe labor organizations appreciate a candidate who comes from such a family and is no stranger to hard work.”
Barrido, a veteran public defender who tries cases at the Maybrook Courthouse, said he deliberately filed to run against Raines-Welch because he said he wanted to give voters an opportunity to give voters an opportunity to pick someone who is independent of the Democratic Party machine.
“I picked this race to go against the speaker’s wife,” Barrido said. “I deliberately wanted to give the people a choice as to whether or not they wanted to go with the status quo Democratic politics or to have someone who is a fighter in the courtroom, who has a reputation as a zealous advocate and a hard worker period.”
Barrido, who graduated from DePaul Law School in 1999, said that he sees becoming a judge as a logical next step in his career.
“A judge can do the right thing,” Barrido said “A lawyer has to advocate for the position of their client.”
Barrido says his decades of trial experience makes him the best qualified candidate in the race.
“People may have fancy titles,” Barrido said. “I’m proud to be an assistant public defender, I’m proud to have been a victim witness coordinator. I’m proud to be a trial lawyer who can navigate a courtroom.”
Pedersen, 39, is also a graduate of DePaul Law School and earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce from DePaul. As an undergraduate she was co-captain of the DePaul Demon dance team.
Pedersen, who has lived in Riverside for nearly four years and lived for four years in Brookfield before moving to Riverside, said that the depth and breath of her litigation experience distinguishes her from the other candidates.
“I am confident in my candidacy,” Pedersen said. “The depth and breadth of my experience sets me apart.”
When Yarbrough became Cook County Recorder of Deeds, she hired Pedersen as her chief labor and legal counsel. Pedersen said she worked hard in that job and was hired for a specific purpose.
“I committed to doing one year with them to help them get in and stand up a legal department and a functioning HR department,” Pedersen said. “I was hired into an exempt position; I was vetted by the State’s Attorney’s office as well as the Shakman monitors and was highly recommended for the position.”
Last year, Pedersen applied to fill a vacancy on the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education but was not selected. She says she has long aspired to be a judge.
“Becoming a judge has always been a passion of mine going back even as far as grade school,” Pedersen said. “I worked as a peer mediator, and the ability to solve their problems and reach a resolution is something that I’ve been passionate about.”
Campanelli, 64, is from LaGrange and has an office in Palos Heights. He is a criminal defense lawyer who is married to Amy Campanelli, the former Public Defender for Cook County and Barrido’s one-time boss.
The tagline of his law firm website is “Everybody makes mistakes, including the police.”
Campanelli, who unsuccessfully ran for judge nearly 30 years ago, began his career as a prosecutor and now has a general law practice with a focus on criminal defense. He said that he has tried thousands of cases, including hundreds of jury trials.
“I believe that the 4th Subcircuit in which I’m running has an extremely intelligent community,” Campanelli said. “That they can look at the backgrounds of the people involved, that money being thrown at a race is not important.”
This story has been updated to include comments by ShawnTe Raines-Welch.