Evanston-native Larry Axelrood won one of the two 9th subcircuit judicial vacancies on March 20, earning a plurality of the vote in a competitive contest.
Axelrood will now preside over cases from Evanston, Wilmette, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Rogers Park and other nearby neighborhoods. The Evanston Township High School graduate edged out three other candidates to win the vacancy left by Judge James Epstein, who was promoted to serve as an appellate court judge.
Axelrood said he started the race in good standing in the mindset of Evanston voters.
“I knew I was the most qualified candidate and most experienced,” Axelrood said. “I was the highest-rated candidate, and I was a judge for almost seven years. I was hopeful that I could get that message out, and people would get a good impression.”
But Thom Mannard, Axelrood’s chief campaign consultant, said despite Axelrood’s qualifications, he knew the campaign faced decent competition as the March 20 election.
“For Judge Axelrood, all you can do is control to the best of your abilities what you can control,” Mannard said. “These are very low-profile races, so even if you have a great product to sell, you still have to try to get your supporters out on Election Day. I think that’s another thing that we did just as well as our opponents. We got our supporters out to the poll.”
Axelrood served the Second Municipal District at the Skokie Courthouse before winning his election. Along with his trial duties, he also presided over two specialty court calls: the Veterans Court and Mental Health court.
He said his overall goal is to become a full circuit judge.
“(Skokie) courts are trying to create innovative approaches to problems that have come up in our justice system,” Axelrood said. “Just incarcerating people doesn’t work. I also do a lot of work legislatively, on behalf of the judges association. All these things together are the reason why I want to become a full circuit judge as opposed to an associate judge.”
There were two judicial vacancies on the March 20 ballot. Axelrood said he decided which race to contest because former Evanston Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste, who won the other seat, decided beforehand to run in separate vacancies.
“My friend Lionel Jean-Baptiste told me he was going to run, and we made sure we wouldn’t run against each other,” he said.
Abbey Fishman Romanek finished a close second to Axelrood, losing by 898 votes out of more than 18,500 ballots cast.
Axelrood said Romanek has past experience running in judicial elections.
“I knew that she would be well-organized,” he said. “The bottom line is: our message throughout the campaign was most experienced, most qualified and highest-rated by all the bar associates … She chose to run against me because she thought the best chance of victory was against me.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle endorsed Romanek over Axelrood. She said she was disappointed at the results.
“I supported Ms. Romanek last time, and she lost by a handful of votes,” Preckwinkle said. “I was hopeful that she would be successful this time. I think she was a great candidate.”
Preckwinkle added that she did not know the other candidates well.