Referring to Simmons,
Cooney said: “Here’s somebody who’s
not a silver-spoon kid or from a political dynasty.
He’s not a frivolous guy. He’s personally
Hynes has deep political roots: His father
sits on the Democratic National Committee and is a former
Cook County assessor. The co-chairmen of Hynes’
campaign include Cook County Commissioner John P. Daley,
the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and county
board President John Stroger.
Other trial lawyers said they would wait
and see how the campaigns are shaping up before backing
anyone in the Democratic primary next March.
“I’ve never met Mr. Simmons,
and I know nothing about him,” said Philip Corboy
Jr., of Corboy & Demetrio, one of Illinois’
most prominent personal-injury firms. “I’m
a Democrat, so obviously I would look at every Democratic
candidate’s credentials. … A lot of people
like myself are laying low right now.”
Corboy said he likes many of the Democrats
running. “Dan Hynes is a wonderful guy. He’s
got a lot of ambition. Gery Chico, also a wonderful
guy. There’s a woman by the name of Maria Pappas.
I know her very personally, very well. She’d shake
Both Corboy’s father, Philip H.
Corboy, and Thomas Demetrio — the Chicago firm’s
two name partners — are past presidents of the
23,000-member Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois
Trial Lawyers Association.
Attorneys supporting Hynes cited the 34-year-old
comptroller’s experience in state government and
professional ties. One of those lawyers, John Brannigan,
of Maher & Brannigan, in Flossmoor, added that Simmons’
legal connections wouldn’t help much.
“I really don’t think that
lawyers, by and large, follow other lawyers kind of
in tow, just because they’re lawyers,” said
Brannigan, who gave $300 to Hynes’ campaign in
the first quarter of 2003. “The fact that [Simmons
is] a lawyer, I don’t think he’ll take away
any of [Hynes’] lawyer following.”
Brannigan also noted that Hynes is an
attorney in addition to being state comptroller. In
fact, some of Hynes’ legal support comes from
the years he spent practicing healthcare law in Chicago.
Edward Murnane, president of the Illinois
Civil Justice League, a group that lobbies for tort
reform, suggested it could be tough for Simmons to channel
votes and dollars away from Hynes, who’s been
unofficially running for the Senate for months.
“On the Democratic side, probably
the front-runner right now is Dan Hynes,” said
Murnane, who worked in the Reagan and first Bush administrations.
“He’s been elected to public office, he’s
got a good public image, he comes out of Cook County.”
Murnane also took aim at Madison County,
where the Simmons firm is based. “It has been
the most active class-action forum in the United States.
It is one of the counties that has been identified as
a judicial hellhole by the American Tort Reform Association.”
None of the possible Republican candidates
seeking the GOP nomination has achieved front-runner
status. With Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald declining
to seek a second term, Illinois is one of only two states
with an open Senate seat in 2004.
Democrats in Washington have said winning
the Illinois seat is imperative if they are to take
back the Senate. Republicans are poised to win retiring
Democratic Sen. Zell Miller’s seat in Georgia,
the other state with an open seat.
Neither Simmons nor Hynes offered their
thoughts about tort reform or Republican efforts to
curb what many conservatives view as frivolous lawsuits.
In a prepared statement on his decision
to jump in the race, Simmons avoided any mention of
trial lawyers and tort reform.
“I want to make a difference on
the issues of health care and education, and so many
other issues,” he said.
Hynes’ spokeswoman, Chris Mather,
said: “Dan is a former healthcare attorney and
his wife is a doctor, so he understands the effect of
skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance. But in trying
to rein in out-of-control healthcare costs, we must
ensure that the rights of victims are protected and
that they have access to our civil justice system.”