There are some surprising plot twists for this spring’s election so far – with the primary still approaching. In December, 2017, just shortly after Judge John Schmidt had successfully landed on the 2018 ballot for the Justice Tom Appleton vacancy to 4th District Appellate Court, he suddenly passed away – a sad and shocking turn of events for the 52-year-old judge who seemingly had many more years of service ahead of him.
With the passing of Judge John Schmidt, the primary on March 20, 2018 was looming with an empty seat, an empty ballot, and a lot of uncertainty. The primary for the appellate court was thrown into massive write-in contest – a contest that Judge Pete Cavanagh, a colleague and former employee of Schmidt, decided to stare straight in the face.
To date, 47-year-old Cavanagh has ample experience on the political bench to back his sudden jump into an appellate court position, having served as the Resident Circuit Judge since 2008.
His background and credentials? Cavanagh graduated from the John Marshall Law School in 1997. After graduation, he headed back to Springfield, IL where he practiced private law until 1999. From there, he spent three years as the Assistant State’s Attorney in Sangamon County, before entering a six-year partnership with the law firm Cavanagh & Madonia, LLP (Springfield, IL). In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Cavanagh the Resident Circuit Judge.
As the Resident Circuit Judge, he presided over Drug Court, Criminal Felony, Law, Chancery, and Probate. After displaying excellent knowledge and poise on the bench, Cavanagh was elected in 2010 to a six-year term, and again in a retention election, where he has been serving until the opening created by Schmidt’s passing surfaced.
There are 30 counties in the 4th District Appellate Court, and Cavanagh is certified to be a write-in candidate in all of them – certified legally and qualified in many other aspects as well. In this race, Cavanagh is hoping to assume the vacancy on the bench created by Judge Tom Appleton’s retirement.
Besides his legal qualifications, Cavanagh packs a hefty resume in other areas as well. In addition to his work in the Resident Circuit Court, Cavanagh is the adjunct law professor at MacMurray College here in Jacksonville – meaning, he has a big heart for students and education. The past president of the Sangamon County Bar Association, he is currently the chair of the board of United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Land of Lincoln – an organization dedicated to “providing services, programs and advocacy to individuals with all types of disabilities” (www.upcll.org). Through chairing the board of the UCP, Cavanagh has helped oversee many of their services, including giving job training and placement, providing assistive technology, giving residential support, day services, case management, advocacy, and more.
To date, Cavanagh runs unopposed – but there’s a catch. Just because he’s currently unopposed doesn’t mean he’s victorious, yet. As a write-in, in order to advance to the general elections in November, he must secure 1,070 votes on Republican ballots. It’s of interest to note, that according to the Pontiac Daily Leader, there’s another catch – “If he does not receive the minimum votes, … [Cavanagh] cannot appear on the November ballot, even as an independent.”
Hence, like most write-in elections, details are crucial. If you choose to vote for Cavanagh on March 20, be aware that his name will NOT be printed on the ballot, so it’s up to you to get it there. Be sure to fill in the oval then write his name as “Pete Cavanagh,” in order for your vote to be counted.
A resident of Springfield, IL, Cavanagh and his wife Kristin have three lovely children. When he’s not in a courtroom or fulfilling public duties, Cavanagh loves spending time with his family, reading history and pursuing one of his greatest passions – soccer. He is a player and referee.