Judicial candidate has resume, bar ratings, warchest — and connections
By Abdon M. Pallasch Political Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org August 31, 2011 8:08PM
Cook County Judge Laura Liu
Updated: November 2, 2011 12:37AM
Laura Liu stands out from the other candidates running for judge on Chicago’s North lakefront:
For one thing, there’s the staggering amount of money she has raised: $144,000 in the first reporting period, more than any other candidate for Cook County Circuit Court.
There is the good resume with 19 years as a litigator before she was appointed to the bench last year; the good ratings from lawyers’ groups.
There is Mayor Rahm Emanuel headlining a Chinatown fund-raiser Thursday night for the first Chinese-American woman to serve as a judge in Illinois.
There’s the fact that Liu’s husband is Mike Kasper, longtime lawyer to Mike Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.
Many of the donors to Liu’s campaign worked for or with Madigan. Some, such as distillers, recyclers or political consultants, interact with Madigan through his roles moving legislation through Springfield or heading up Illinois’ Democratic Party.
Kasper, an election law expert, successfully defended Emanuel against a suit challenging his status as a Chicago resident.
The lawyer on the other side of that suit, Burt Odelson, donated $500 to Liu’s campaign.
“I love Laura — I wish I could give her more money,” said Odelson. “She represented the Blue Island Park District and Township before I took it over from her.”
The judge in the residency case, Mark Ballard, donated $200 to Liu’s campaign, saying he has been very impressed with her performance since her appointment to the bench.
During the heat of the residency case, all sides took an afternoon off to watch as Liu was sworn in as an appointed judge by members of the Supreme Court of Illinois who would eventually rule for Emanuel in the case.
Liu has donations from Madigan’s chief of staff, Tim Mapes, from Madigan son-in-law Jordan Matyas, from Senate President John Cullerton and from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, among many others.
How has she managed to attract support from so many factions of the local political community?
“I expect and hope it’s because they think I am qualified,” Liu said. “I hope they are inspired by me personally, my qualifications. Some of it is about me being the first Chinese-American.”
Liu, 45, grew up in industrial Youngstown, Ohio, the only Asian-American in her graduating class of 600.
She was born under the Chinese zodiac sign of the Fire Horse.
“It could explain why it took me an awful long time to settle down,” Liu said. She and Kasper have a daughter who just turned 3 years old.
Liu was just diagnosed with breast cancer and will be starting chemotherapy shortly.
She graduated from Youngstown State University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law. As a Special Assistant Attorney General she defended the state’s ban on sales of sexually explicit or violent video games to minors.
Liu laughs off questions about whether she ascended to the bench through her own successful legal career or with help from her husband’s political connections by saying, “Mike Kasper is the man who accompanied me to my wedding.”
Liu is running for one of the four vacancies in the 8th Judicial Subcircuit on Chicago’s North lakefront.
Under the old judicial election rules, her rivals would have been able to file in multiple judicial openings and then decide whether to stay in the race against her or opt for another. Under new rules her husband helped helped write — and which some critics say help her — she and other judges will only be able to file for one vacancy.