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updated: 3/11/2018 6:42 PM

From Spiwak to O'Malley: Was change to Irish name political?

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CHICAGO -- It's an alleged bid to harness the luck of the Irish or, at least, the luck of an Irish name.

A watchdog says a Chicago-area lawyer changed his name to sound Irish to improve his odds of winning election as a Cook County judge, from Phillip Spiwak to Shannon P. O'Malley, after losing a 2010 race in a neighboring county.

The Illinois Civil Justice League is releasing its judicial candidate ratings Monday, citing O'Malley's name change for giving him a "not-recommended" rating.

Chicago celebrates its large Irish communities, and political experts say data indicates some voters are more likely to vote for judicial candidates with Irish names.

O'Malley told NBC News the change honored a mentor. But League President John Pastuovic called it "a cynical attempt to game the electoral process."

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