Some candidates running for the assorted races get to breathe a momentary sigh of relief after Tuesday’s primaries — especially those like Richard Cooke — who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary for a judgeship in the 6th Subcircuit, a largely Latino neighborhood in the City of Chicago.
However Cooke, a former River Forest resident, wasn’t so easily relieved in his last election.
In spring of 2015, River Forest residents may remember the attorney and businessman made an unsuccessful attempt for a seat on the village board. Cooke had the lowest vote totals just around 650 votes and ran against incumbents Susan Conti, Carmela Corsini as well as Michael Gibbs — the latter of whom won — as well as Patty Henek and Rick Gillis.
Throughout his trustee campaign, Cooke was quite candid expressing his desires to run as judge in the future and openly stated a trustee position would provide him with valuable experience.
Just days after the April 7 election last year, Cooke created his “Committee to Elect Richard C. Cooke,” according to the Illinois State Board of Elections and on April 21, he loaned his own committee $500,000 of his own money to begin building a campaign war chest. Soon after that, he moved from his $850,000 River Forest home to where he now claims his residency in a second floor apartment building in Logan Square.
Such funding pales in comparison to his trustee race, where the race was hotly contested and lawn signs colored the corridors – absent Cooke’s.
What has some local residents scratching their heads is whether Cooke, no longer a River Forest resident, will still serve on the Development Review Board (DRB) and the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).
Cooke was appointed to these boards last May by River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci and the appointments were approved by the village board. These are highly significant boards in the community as they hold hearings and make recommendations to the village board regarding development applications. These include applications for planned development permits (projects of 20,000 square feet or more) and site plan review permits (projects between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet).
It is not clear yet as to whether Cooke will retain his DRB and ZBA posts — which are set to expire April 2017 — or if he will step down.
Eric Palm, village administrator, explained there is no residency requirement for either board unless such member is the chair. He said he is not aware of any plans to remove Cooke, but also acknowledged it is not his decision.
“Mr. Cooke meets the current requirements in the village code to serve on both boards,” according to Palm. “Mr. Cooke attends and participates in meetings of both bodies.”
Adduci echoed Palm’s report of village code that there are no residency requirements for board members on the DRB, ZBA or EDC (Economic Development Commission), and added, “He has been very active on both boards and gives a great deal of his time. Richard has proved to be a great asset to our community.”
She did acknowledge, however, that if Cooke wins in November, his ability to give as much of his time would likely be hindered by his judge responsibilities. If he becomes the elected judge, she said she guesses he would render his resignation.
While Cooke maintains his new residence away from River Forest, he also has his law office, two gas stations and a car wash in the subcircuit for which he is hoping to become judge. Cooke has litigation experience including trial practice in domestic relations, housing court and traffic court. As well, he has conducted pro bono legal aid since 2008, providing services for as many as five clients in need each month.
Cooke is endorsed by some powerful names in Illinois politics including Al Ronan, Ed Burke, Richard Mell, and Mike Madigan to name just a few, according to his website.
Attempts were made to reach Cooke, but there was no response as of this post. RF Community Matters will update this post with any comment from Cooke.