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Kilbride is first Illinois justice to lose a retention

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- While most voters in Illinois' Third Judicial District voted to retain Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, he will no longer serve on the state's highest court.

That is because, according to the Associated Press, Kilbride only received 56.4 percent of the vote. He needed 60 percent to stay in that seat.

This is a first for Illinois. Up until Tuesday night, a state supreme court justice had never lost a bid for retention. Those arguing for Kilbride's removal portrayed him as a pawn of House Speaker Mike Madigan.

"Judge Kilbride was rather slavish in his decisions in support of political interests of the Chicago democratic party," said James Nowlan, Chair of Citizens for Judicial Fairness.

While Kilbride's campaign declined to comment on Wednesday, the justice spent most of his campaign dismissing that accusation. He argued he was an independent jurist who had support from people and groups on both sides of the aisle.

A new justice won't be elected until 2022. The remaining six justices could agree on an interim choice, but experts say it is not likely that the three remaining democrats and three republicans will find someone they can agree on.

"The dynamics have now changed...there will be a three-three tie on the Illinois Supreme Court on some of these really important decisions that will happen in the next few years," said Brad McMillan, former chief of staff for Ray LaHood.

McMillan, who also previously served as a clerk for the state supreme court, says democrats will likely now face more of a challenge when they present partisan issues to the state's high court.

Andy Weber

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