Judicial candidate Chloe Pedersen (center), flanked by Riverside President Joseph Ballerine (left) and former President Ben Sells, makes remarks at a press conference held June 15 at the village's downtown train station. | Bob Skolnik/Contributor

In a full-page advertisement that appeared in the June 15 edition of the Landmark, Riverside Village President Joseph Ballerine is listed as one of many west suburban mayors who are supporting ShawnTe Raines-Welch in her race for judge in the Democratic primary. Ballerine had also, until June 16, been listed on Raines-Welch’s campaign website as someone who had endorsed Raines-Welch. 

In actuality, Ballerine is supporting Riverside resident Chloe Pedersen who is running against Raines-Welch and two other candidates in the June 28 primary election for a seat on the bench in Cook County’s 4th Judicial Subcircuit.

Ballerine made that clear at a press conference held by Pedersen on June 15 at the Riverside train station.

“I support Chloe 100 percent,” said Ballerine, who along with former Riverside Village President Ben Sells, stood alongside Pedersen at her press conference. “Chloe approached me several months ago, and I think she’s extremely qualified.”

Ballerine said that his support of Pedersen has been no secret. 

“I put her on my Facebook page,” Ballerine said. “I share it where I can.”

Ballerine said he was surprised to find out his name was included in the Raines-Welch advertisement and that he was listed on Raines-Welch’s website as endorsing her.

“It’s not a big deal, but it was embarrassing to me,” Ballerine said. 

Raines-Welch told the Landmark that it was a staff error to include Ballerine on the list of officials endorsing her.

“I have a very large list of endorsers that include Secretary of State Jesse White, Congressman Chuy Garcia, the state’s leading pro-choice group Personal PAC, the Chicago Federation of Labor and their associated unions, elected officials, and advocacy groups supporting my campaign,” Raines-Welch said in an email. “There was a staff error in the review process before the ad listing my supporters was published that caused Mayor Ballerine to be included in that list, and 

“I apologize to the mayor that this error occurred,” said Raines-Welch, who is endorsed by numerous political figures and organizations, including include Secretary of State Jesse White, Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the pro-abortions rights group Personal PAC and the Chicago Federation of Labor, among others. “Corrections to the ad and website were made as soon as it was brought to my attention.”

Ballerine said that he has met Raines-Welch, who is married to Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Chris Welch, three or four times this year at political events in Riverside and that he was friendly with her.

“I try to be nice to everyone who comes to town,” Ballerine said. “That’s my job.”

Ballerine, who had nothing bad to say about Raines-Welch, said he had also liked Raines-Welch’s campaign Facebook page and liked a post on it that named other suburban mayors and village presidents endorsing Raines-Welch. He wondered if that might have caused some mistaken assumptions about whom he was supporting.

“I’ll be honest with you, a little bit is my naiveté,” Ballerine said. 

Raines-Welch and Pedersen are battling it out in the judicial race along with former Brookfield resident and veteran public defender Jerry Barrido and attorney Patrick Campanelli.

Pedersen, a partner in the law firm of Fletcher and Sippell, LLC, has been rated as recommended or qualified by every bar association that has evaluated the candidates in the race. Barrido has been rated as qualified or recommended by 12 of the 13 bar associations. He was not evaluated by the Arab American Bar Association. 

Raines-Welch, a partner who specializes in municipal law at the Ancel Glink law firm, has been rated as qualified or recommended by 11 of the 13 bar associations, but was rated “not qualified” by the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) and “not recommended” by the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago. The ISBA evaluation expressed concerns about her lack of trial experience.

Pedersen, who is the niece of Cook County Clerk Karen Yarborough, is a member of the board of the ISBA, but she and the ISBA say that the board plays no role in their group’s judicial evaluations

“I had to go through the same process that my opponents had to go through,” Pedersen said. “I had to put together my application which was in total over 60 pages. I had to sit for an interview with each of those bar associations and answer their questions.”

A spokeswoman for ISBA said its evaluations of judicial candidates in Cook County are done by an independent committee, which looks at 12 factors in evaluating judicial candidates including experience, legal knowledge, temperament, diligence and character.

Campanelli, a criminal defense lawyer in private practice, was rated as qualified by only one bar association, the Chicago Bar Association. He was rated as unqualified or not recommended by six bar associations, including the ISBA, and apparently did not participate in the evaluation processes of six bar associations.

While Pedersen and Barrido have the edge in bar association ratings, Raines-Welch leads in perhaps a more important category, money. Her campaign has raised $467,938.71, according to the Injustice Watch website compared to just $37,360 for Pederson and $53,130 for Barrido. Campanelli does not have a campaign committee.

Being the wife of the Speaker of the Illinois House has helped with fundraising. Colleagues of Chris Welch have donated large sums to the Raines-Welch campaign. The campaign committee of House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has given the Raines-Welch campaign $50,000, as has the campaign committee of State Rep. Marcus C. Evans Jr. (D-Chicago). 

Three other state representatives, including State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero), gave $25,000 each to Raines-Welch’s campaign. Raines-Welch herself donated $100,100 to her campaign in February to jump start her fund raising.

All that money is allowing Raines-Welch to saturate the 4th Subcircuit, which covers western Cook County from Palos and Worth Townships on the south to Leyden Township on the north, with direct mail.

Pedersen acknowledged it’s difficult to run against an opponent who is outspending her by a margin of more than 10-to-1 and who has support from many politicians and political organizations.

“It’s important that the judiciary stay independent of all of that,” Pedersen said. “And while we absolutely need money to run campaigns, I think the contributions are a slippery slope. But I do trust the voters to assess that situation in a way that they deem appropriate and vote accordingly.”