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Kilbride Seeks Another 10-Year Term on the Illinois Supreme Court

Zoom Press Conference
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride is running for another 10-year retention on the high court.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride wants to serve on the state's high court for another 10 years.

Kilbride formally launched his retention campaign on Wednesday. He must get at least 60 percent of the vote in the 3rd Judicial Circuit that includes Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, Stark, Marshall, and 16 other counties in North and West-Central Illinois.

"Whether you're the carpenter, the CEO of a bank, or a bricklayer, you're entitled to a fair shot in our court system," Kilbride said. "We need balance, and everybody gets a shot at a level playing field, to make sure that everyone's voice is heard."

Kilbride was born in LaSalle and has lived in the Quad Cities for the past four decades. He was first elected in 2000, and was retained in 2010 with just over 65% of the vote. During his time as chief justice, from 2010 to 2013, he promoted courtroom cameras and making electronic court filings easier.

Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos endorses Kilbride.

"Making difficult choices is not for the faint of heart," she said. "It takes hard work, persistence, integrity, compassion, and knowledge of the law. But above all, it takes guts. Justice Kilbride possesses all of these qualities," she said.

As a former circuit judge herself, Hoos said Kilbride is a "strong leader" at the end of the appellate line who sees through flawed attempts to overthrow guilty verdicts from the circuit level.

"Justice Kilbride has a history of ensuring the most violent among us face consequences, and that justice is preseved," she said.

Kilbride also was endorsed Wednesday by Tim Bertschy, past president of the Illinois State Bar Association; Clint Drury, executive director of the West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council; and Jon Burklund, past president of the Illinois Association of Wholesale Distributors.

Kilbride is part of the court's narrow 4-3 Democratic majority, and the only one residing outside the Chicago area. The Illinois Republican Party is targeting Kilbride's retention campaign after he voted against pension restructuring, redistricting reform efforts, and imposing lawmaker term limits.

In a response to those critiques, Kilbride said the decision to reduce pension benefits was found unconstitutional by a unanimous court.

"For those who want to politicize the courts, they should realize that there were three members who were elected as Republicans, three as Democrats, and we unanimously took that position," he said.

The same was true for the decision against term limits, he said. The redistricting decision split along partisan lines the last time it was before the court in 2016, however.

"That was a majority decision that was based on court precedent that dictated that result," Kilbride said. "And in fact, the opinion made it very clear that a decision or a plan would not be unconstitutional. That plan was constitutionally defective."

The retention question is on the Nov.3 ballot. If Kilbride fails to retain the seat, an election would be held to elect a new justice.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.