Ex-alderman runs for Cook County Circuit Court

Chris Kirk

Steve Bernstein once wrote the law as an Evanston alderman. Now, he’s campaigning to be the one to uphold it.

The former 4th Ward alderman opened his campaign office Wednesday and is circulating petitions to be a judge of the Cook County Circuit Court. A former township assessor, Bernstein has already amassed a strong power base in Evanston. He has endorsements from most of the current aldermen, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

Bernstein, 63, retired from the City Council earlier this year.

“Time for younger people with different ideas to get in there,” he said.

Currently, Bernstein is the acting general counsel for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said Bernstein would make an effective judge.

“He’s got the ability to listen to both sides carefully, to make a well-reasoned judgment and apply the rules that are applicable,” said Wilson.

During his 12 years as an alderman, Bernstein championed a four-way stop at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Dempster Street and encouraged downtown development.

Bernstein said he decided not to run for re-election as an alderman because it was time for a change, not because he intended to run for the judgeship.

Presiding over the court, like legislating, involves tough decisions that can seriously influence lives, he said.

“My mission and my job was to listen to everything everyone had to tell me, read everything I could possibly find to read and then reach into my heart and my soul and my brain and make the best decision I thought I could make,” he said.

Despite Bernstein’s local support, the race may still prove challenging, Campaign Manager Jonas Heineman said. Evanston counts for less than a fifth of the district’s population, and Bernstein may be facing at least 10 other candidates for the two open slots.

“We’re going to run hard,” Heineman said.

Heineman declined to reveal the campaign’s budget but said it will be measured in hundreds of thousands, not millions.

Election day is February 2.

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