The Democratic primary battle for the bench in the Cook County Circuit Court’s 15th judicial subcircuit (Sterba vacancy) went to the wire Tuesday night and spilled into early Wednesday before the Cook County Clerk’s Office released a final count, at 1:13 a.m., showing that Chris Lawler of Palos Heights had edged Michael B. Barrett of Orland Park by a mere 14 votes.
With all 291 precincts reporting, Lawler finished with 4,168 votes (25.98 percent), with Barrett an eyelash away with 4,154 votes (25.89 percent).
Bringing up the rear in the race were Robbin Perkins of Matteson with 2,996 votes (18.67 percent), Sondra Denmark of Matteson with 2,785 votes (17.36 percent), and Mary Beth Duffy of Tinley Park with 1,942 votes (12.10 percent).
Lawler did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night. He ran a highly visible campaign, with prominent blue and white yard signs across Palos Heights, in his race to best Barrett, who was the slated candidate of the Cook County Democratic Party.
Barrett, reached at his home in Orland Park on Tuesday night, that “win, lose or draw, this campaign has been a great experience. I’ve met some fantastic people, had tremendous support for which I’m grateful. It really strengthened my faith in our system.”
Barrett’s candidacy began long before the official announcement of his campaign when he began making the rounds of speaking appearances before area senior citizen and other community groups and fraternal organizations, discussing the law and his interest in the sport of hockey, as both a referee and president of a youth hockey organization.
Lawler already serves as a judge, appointed to his position last year by the Illinois Supreme Court upon the retirement of Judge David Sterba, also a Palos Heights resident. He is assigned to the 6th District Courthouse in Markham.
The race also was a test of political muscle, with both Barrett and Lawler lining up camps of local committeemen, mayors and others.
Lawler had the backing of Palos Heights Mayor Robert Straz, as well as the mayors of Crestwood, Midlothian, and Oak Forest.
Barrett was supported by Orland Park Mayor Daniel McLaughlin, Palos Hills Mayor Gerald R. Bennett, and Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings.
Both men claimed the backing of the mayors of Alsip and Tinley Park.
Both men had lined up significant support from organized labor.
Less frenzied and noticed was the other race in the 15th judicial subcircuit, to fill the Doody vacancy.
Orland Park resident Patrick Kevin Coughlin fought his way to victory in a fairly tight race.
With all 291 precincts reporting, Coughlin finished with 6,694 votes (44 percent), besting Flossmoor resident and incumbent Judge Diana Embil, who trailed with 6,198 votes (40.74 percent), and Orland Park resident John S. Fotopoulos bringing up the rear with 2,321 tallies (15.26 percent).