Join Everyday Law with our special guest, Matt Stanton, as we discuss his unusual backstory, as well as the national and local Democratic party.

Gurnee resident Matt Stanton has an unusual background for an attorney. He comes from a working-class background and is the first of his family to pursue education beyond high school. Stanton was an unconventional college and law student. Recently he announced his candidacy as a Democratic candidate for Lake County Circuit judge.

Stanton was working as a baggage handler at O’Hare International Airport supporting a young family in the early 1990s. A Christmas Eve car accident changed the course of his life as well as that of his family. The accident caused serious injuries to members of his family, including permanent disability to one of his daughters. The stress of that event contributed to the break-up of his marriage. Stanton ended up representing himself in court for a good deal of the divorce and custody proceedings. This experience led him to consider the law as a profession.

As a single father raising 5 children, Stanton left his job at O’Hare and sought work closer to home as a handyman and school bus driver. This also allowed him to pursue higher education. After finishing college, Stanton went to law school. To accommodate both the schedule of his family and law school, Stanton became a substitute teacher. He liked to incorporate his legal coursework with his substitute classroom work, which his young students seemed to enjoy. Upon graduation from law school, Stanton combined his law practice with a law professor position at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Stanton entered the world of Lake County politics with a run for the Lake County State’s Attorney as the Democratic candidate. Though he lost that race, Stanton did not give up politics and next ran for a seat on the College of Lake County Board of Trustees, which he won. Stanton’s next political goal is that of Lake County Circuit judge; again, as a Democratic candidate.

Stanton stated that the current plight of the Democratic party is well illustrated by the book, “Listen Liberal” by Thomas Frank. The Democratic party used to be the party of the “little guy” or the working class. The current state of the party can be traced back to the time of George McGovern when the rules of power changed. Originally, the party bosses held political power, but rule changes took away that power from the bosses and gave rise to the current system of superdelegates. The old insiders were replaced by new insiders. Democrats began to take the base of the working class for granted. Elites in both parties have left a wide swath of people in both parties feeling unrepresented. The most recent presidential election of Trump and the split of Democrats between Sanders and Clinton also evidences widespread voter dissatisfaction.

Locally, Lake County, traditionally heavily Republican, has become more balanced evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the last generation. However, the Lake County judiciary, also traditionally heavily Republican, has only begun to change with the rise of the sub circuits. Stanton still feels that the diversity of Lake County is not reflected in the make-up of the judiciary. Stanton would like to bridge the 2 groups that make up the Lake County Democratic party; the traditional working class/ minorities and the more affluent liberal professionals of southern Lake County, and bring more balance to the Lake County judiciary.