Metro-East News

Baricevic off bench in 20th Judicial Circuit; LeChien holds off challenge

20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge John Baricevic.
20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge John Baricevic.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge John Baricevic lost his seat in Tuesday’s election. Republican Ron Duebbert, who ran strong in the four other counties in the 20th Judicial Circuit outside of St. Clair County, will replace him.

Meanwhile, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien, a Democrat, defended his seat, narrowly winning over challenger LaNinya Cason, a Republican.

Baricevic, LeChien and Circuit Judge Robert Haida, all Democrats, announced they would retire and run for the judge positions created by their retirement in November. The move allowed them to avoid running for retention. By doing so, they needed to receive only one more vote than their opponents. In a retention vote, a judge needs to receive “yes” votes from at least 60 percent of voters.

Haida ran for election unopposed.

The final but unofficial numbers for the Duebbert-Baricevic race:

▪  Duebbert: 81,881

▪  Baricevic: 80,929

The final but unofficial results for the LeChien-Cason race:

▪  LeChien 58,559

▪  Cason: 56,343

“The voters of the 20th Judicial Circuit have spoken,” Duebbert said. “I am so honored that they have placed their trust in me to bring honesty, integrity and fairness to our court system.”

Duebbert credited his win to voters’ desire for change.

“I actually think that they sent several messages with this vote. They said they expected to be treated with respect. They want the judges to be subject to the same type of work environment that they are subjected to. They are saying, ‘Why do I have to be subject to drug-testing when you as a judge don’t?’” Duebbert said.

Baricevic has said on numerous occasions that mandatory drug-testing for judges is against the Illinois Constitution.

But Duebbert countered that judges could volunteer to take drug tests and make the results public.

“Take a test and show us that they aren’t using drugs,” Duebbert said.

It’s about trust, Duebbert said, and part of that is the strategy of resigning and re-running instead of seeking retention.

“There just seems to be an overall lack of confidence in the judges and the judiciary,” he said.

Baricevic could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dallas Cook spent $80,000 in a court battle to oust the three judges from the ballot, on grounds that their re-election strategy was unlawful. Cook’s effort was unsuccessful, but Cook said he didn’t regret spending the money.

“People appreciate elected officials who follow the letter of the law. When you refuse to follow the Constitution, I can’t be surprised when the voters react,” Cook said. “I am still $50,000 in debt, so I don’t call this a victory, but I am pleased with the result.”

Cason, a Republican from East St. Louis, was leading in St. Clair County with 52,976 votes to LeChien’s 51,995 votes. But when East St. Louis votes came in, Cason lost with a final count of 56,343 votes to LeChien’s 58,559 votes.

“I think I am in disbelief,” Cason said. “I had a little more faith in my community. I wanted to be the voice of East St. Louis.”

She added, “I’m glad and I appreciate the voters of St. Clair County, but a voice for East St. Louis has been silenced.”

LeChien could not immediately be reached for comment.