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ELECTIONS '14--Linda Pauel: Lesbian judicial candidate stages her comeback
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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After narrowly losing her judicial race in 2010, Linda Pauel posted on Facebook, "I'll be back."

Three years later she definitely is, running for judge in the 10th Subcircuit. (Primary elections are next March.)

In a recent interview with Windy City Times, Pauel discussed everything from judicial ratings to her possibly controversial press liaison to what people don't know about her.

Windy City Times: What is it about being a judge that appeals to you?

Linda Pauel: There's been a lot of focus on our government and how ineffective it is right now. The focus has been on the legislature—we weren't able to get pensions, we weren't able to get marriage—and I think all of that is very important.

As someone who has been practicing for 23 years, my day-to-day interaction is with judges and lawyers, and that's been the focus for me. In order to have a healthy government, we also need an impartial judiciary. That's where my passion lies.

Most of the judges out there are fantastic, but that's not always true. I became more interested in judicial elections, the types of candidates and how the process works when my good friend Mary Roberts ran out in Oak Park. It was fascinating to learn that it's not always about qualifications and integrity, and that it's sometimes about politics and backroom deals.

I want to change that. It becomes very difficult when it comes to who's at the bottom of the ballots. There's very little opportunity to get the word out.

Also, once a [bad] judge is elected, it's very difficult to get that person out. Only 60 percent of the vote is required for retention. And few voters are willing to go to the bottom of the ballot; there's a 50-percent dropoff between the top and the bottom. Once these people are in, they're in.

The focus the past few months has been on the U.S. Supreme Court. What are they going to do with voters' rights? Not much. Immigration rights? Marriage equality? Now people realize that the position comes with a lot of power and responsibility.

The judges over there make decisions that fundamentally affect you and me—decisions about employment, housing, civil liberties. That's what they decide on every day. Judges really have this amazing responsibillity, and we don't know who half these people are. We also need people who are compassionate and who know what's going on in society, and I don't know if all our judges are like that.

WCT: Running for judge is not like running for governor, where you can have a platform for differentiating yourself from the other candidates. Everyone is running on a platform of fairness. How you do separate yourself from the others?

LP: I think that's one of the most difficult challenges judicial candidates face. My campaign message is the same as last time: We need qualified judges and fair-minded judges. Before you get to the second part, you have to get through the first: Are these judges qualified? You have Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, the Decalogue Society, the Alliance [of Illinois Judges, an LGBT group], bar associations... Everyone has to fill out very detailed questionnaires.

If you're qualified, great. The second part—and I think that's what you're getting at—is "If you're all qualified, then what?" How do you determine if someone's fair? I think you look at their background and ask if this is someone who is committed to public service. Does this person volunteer? What does this person do with their personal time? I served on the boards of Equality Illinois and The Civil Rights Agenda, which aim to secure the rights of LGBT people. I was a mentor at Walter Payton [College Prep's] gay-straight alliance. I was a co-founder of a group of gay attorneys.

Besides that, I enjoy working with children; for 12 years, we have gotten on a bus and we drive to some of the schools in the inner city and we read to the children—I love it. As a mother of four children, that's something I love. I have two kids and my partner has two, so we're a blended family—and they're awesome kids.

I'm also an environmentalist. These are seemingly little things but they're so important.

What makes me who I am is that I'm from a multiracial, multiethnic family. My dad is Caucasian; he's Dutch. My mom is Chinese-Jamaican. My sister is half-Venezuelan, and my partner is Jewish—and our family is also gay. I'm comfortable with all types of people.

WCT: What is the biggest misconception about judges?

LP: Hmmm ... that's a really good question. I've never been asked that.

To some extent, one of the biggest misconceptions is that all judges are qualified to get onto the ballot. Often, people tell me, "I voted for the Irish woman or the Jewish man." I'm like, "If you don't know if someone is qualified, you're better off not voting." Anyone can collect signatures and get on the ballot. We really need to make sure we elect qualified judges.

WCT: Ed Mullen is your press liaison. How did you two meet?

LP: We met at a dinner [years ago]. How I really got to know him was when we were campaigning together. He was running for state rep against Ann Williams. There was a story Windy City Times back about gay candidates, because there were 15 of us. We crossed paths often.

When I was thinking about running for judge this time, Ed and I had lunch and he was extremely supportive. When he encouraged me so much, that was it.

WCT: So you two discussed what happened in Ohio? [Note: Last year, Mullen resigned from his executive-director post at Equality Ohio after being charged with disorderly conduct and menacing.]

LP: Honestly, I haven't talked with him a lot about Ohio. I don't really have any concern in Ohio; I think it's completely unrelated to my campaign. He's here to fund-raise; he, as a lawyer, also recognizes that we need qualified and fair-minded judges. In terms of his past, it's really not the basis of my campaign and I don't think it's relevant as to what he's doing for me now.

WCT: I didn't know if it was a concern of yours that a competitor might say or use something. I have interviewed candidates who have put down their opponents.

LP: Let me tell you this: My view on the judicial races and candidates is that we're not allowed to bad-mouth our opponents. Even if we didn't have canons that address that, I just don't see any benefit to that. Other people can do what they want to do; I appreciate the support I've gotten and I think Ed is a person of integrity with a heart of gold.

WCT: Is it good getting your name/face out at this point before the primaries [next March] or do you think you might be overexposed?

LP: I don't think any such thing as overexposure in a judicial election. I'm fortunate that when I ran in 2010 I did well in the city. Again, the problem with these races is that nobody knows who judicial candidates are so I think it's important to get out early.

I've been knocking on the doors of people who are good on issues. [U.S. Rep.] Mike Quigley is one. I think he's fantastic; he's good on gay rights, the environment and other issues. I can't speak on those issues but he can. Having him endorse me was huge.

I'm very serious about this race. I'm not doing it because it's fun to run; I'm really passionate about this. I want to reach out to as many voters as I can.

WCT: You also are making your presence known through 5K races.

LP: Yes—I run and I do triathlons, marathons and half-marathons so I figured this was a great way to let people know who we are. So I put together a team of people who enjoy running and we go out there. We're not overly pushy; we just wear T-shirts, and people see us and take notice.

WCT: The 10th Subcircuit covers what area?

LP: That's the funny thing about these judicial subcircuit races. When people talk about subcircuits, [voters] never know where they are. There's a fabulous map on my website but, generally, it's on the Northwest Side and it covers [wards] 39, 40, 41, 45 and 47; then you have Maine Township, Niles, Norwood Park Township and a little bit of Northfield.

WCT: You've mentioned various things about yourself during this interview. What's something about you that would surprise people?

LP: [Ponders] I don't know. I feel that who I am is so out there. [Laughs] I love to laugh. I love Bob Marley, but that wouldn't surprise anyone; I also like Brandi Carlile. I'm not a big crowd person. I also love hanging out in my garden; we have a beautiful perennial garden we started from scratch—there's something about seeing beauty spring out from your hard work.

For more about Linda Pauel, visit .

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