Noland wins Democratic nod for judge seat; 2 GOP candidates await final tally
Former state Sen. Michael Noland cruised to an easy victory Tuesday night to secure the Democratic nod for an at-large circuit judge seat in Kane County, while two Republican candidates separated by 50 votes say they will wait until the results are official April 3 before declaring victory or conceding.
Unofficial results showed Noland with 19,623 votes and 10,815 for Lark Cowart, an assistant state's attorney.
The seat will be vacated in December when David Akemann retires.
Noland said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the large margin and praised Cowart for running a quality campaign.
"At no time did we believe our victory was certain. She should be commended for a race well run," Noland said. "We had connected with a large number of voters. People are doing their homework."
No Democrat has ever been elected to a countywide, circuit judge seat, and Noland hopes to inspire and open the door for other Democrats to run for circuit offices and bypass the associate judge process, which he says is dominated by Republican judges.
"Once we have Democrats regularly elected to the bench, more will step forward," said Noland, who served as Kane County assistant public defender. "I'm encouraged more people feel Democrats can win."
Kane County has 14 circuit judges and 17 associate judges. Circuit judges oversee their courtrooms but also make policy and appoint associate judges.
On the Republican side, unofficial results show Thomas Hartwell with 11,957 votes compared to 11,907 votes for Elizabeth Flood, an associate judge since 2013 who also worked as an assistant state's attorney.
David Kliment, an associate judge since 2010 and former public defender, finished with 3,938 votes.
Whether Hartwell's lead will hold up will be determined when absentee and other ballots are due.
Raymond Esquivel, the county's supervisor of elections, said 275 ballots are outstanding but only 98 of those are Republican.
Hartwell, who was elected circuit court clerk in 2012, said he will wait until all the votes are in before declaring victory.
"I'm optimistic and appreciative the voters, at this point, have selected me against two quality candidates," he said. "I thought it was going to be close. I was on pins and needles (Tuesday)."
Flood said she planned to keep going to work and will decide her next move April 3.
"Everything is unofficial," Flood said.
The winner of the GOP contest will face Noland in the Nov. 6 general election, with the winner taking the oath of office in December.