Illinois AFL-CIO endorses candidates for judge, U.S. House, Senate and Illinois House


Illinois Correspondent

The Illinois AFL-CIO has endorsed two Labor-backed judges from Madison County for higher judicial seats, including Appellate Justice Judy Cates’ bid for the Illinois Supreme Court and Circuit Judge Sarah Smith’s run for appellate judge.

The AFL-CIO also endorsed each of the five Metro-East area Democrats now serving in the state House of Representatives for re-election and one southern Illinois Congressional candidate. Statewide, the Labor group endorsed U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for re-election.

Cates is a 5th District appellate judge now bidding to take the 5th District seat on the Supreme Court. Known for her vigorous campaigning, she has already appeared before several Metro-East Labor groups and was endorsed by the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council in November.

Judge Smith won a seat on the 3rd Judicial Circuit in 2018 after serving previously as an associate judge and now is seeking election to the 5th District appellate court.

Cates and Smith are joining forces to run a united campaign. Cates noted that the winner of her race would be called upon to appoint his or her own successor and to fill another vacancy on the appellate court. So if both Cates and Smith win, the panel would gain three new Democrats and flip from a Republican to a Democrat majority.

“We can do this,” she told the Trades Council. “It’s going to be a great, great campaign. And with your help – if you’ll help me and get excited – we can win it.”


In campaigns for U.S. Congress, the Illinois AFL-CIO endorsed Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who is running again for the Democratic nomination in the Illinois 13th District. Londrigan won the nomination in 2018 and lost – just barely – to the incumbent, Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville).

The 13th District covers a middle swath of Illinois including Springfield, Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington-Normal, and also stretches southward into parts of Madison County including Edwardsville.

The AFL-CIO did not endorse in the 12th Congressional District, which covers the Alton area, Granite City, St. Clair County and much of rural southern Illinois. Democrats there have two candidates to choose from, Raymond Lenzi of Carbondale, retired after working as a coal miner, college professor and development official for SIU-Carbondale, and Joel Funk of Mascoutah, a farmer, insurance representative and former Army Special Ops aviation officer. The winner will challenge incumbent Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro).

In the 15th District, which covers all of southeastern Illinois and is heavily Republican, incumbent John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) is still planning to retire, leaving the field open to a string of candidates in both parties. The AFL-CIO did not endorse anyone in that district, either.

The Metro-East has a strong, cooperative group of five Democratic, Labor-supporting members who all were endorsed for re-election by the AFL-CIO. They include:

  • Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) 113th District, assistant majority leader and the leader in passing Labor legislation.
  • Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) 112th District, known as one of the hardest-working legislators.
  • Rep. Monica Bristow (D-Alton) 111th District, who was appointed in 2017 and won a tough election battle in 2018 in a competitive district.
  • Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) 114th District, who also won in 2018 and has become a leader on education issues.
  • Rep. Nathan Reitz (D-Steeleville) 116th District, who was appointed in 2019 to replace Rep. Jerry Costello when Costello was made director of law enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources. Reitz is facing his first election campaign in another split district.


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