Cook County Democratic Party officials on Thursday heard from 34 candidates for judicial office who are hoping to be included on the party slate for the 2018 elections.

The candidates who gave two-minute speeches and took questions from Democratic committeemen at Erie Cafe in River North each hope to run for a seat on the Cook County Circuit Court bench.

According to the most recent data published by the Illinois State Board of Elections last week, Cook County had seven at-large judicial vacancies occur since December 2015 by former circuit judges Eileen M. Brewer, Evelyn B. Clay, Thomas E. Flanagan, Russell W. Hartigan, Michelle D. Jordan, Sheila McGinnis and Jean Prendergast Rooney.

The party will announce the candidates it has slated for those seats on Friday, along with a list of alternate candidates that will be recommended for any additional at-large vacancies that are created between now and the Dec. 4 filing deadline.

The first six candidates to speak before the party were sitting judges who were appointed by the Supreme Court to fill court vacancies:

  • Marina Ammendola, appointed effective Feb. 27 to fill the seat left by McGinnis’ retirement;
  • John S. Fotopoulos, appointed on Monday to fill the seat left by Clay’s retirement;
  • Cecilia A. Horan, appointed effective Jan. 19 to fill the seat left by Hartigan’s retirement;
  • Elizabeth A. Karkula, appointed Jan. 19, 2016 to fill the seat left by Rooney’s death;
  • Clare J. Quish, appointed June 28, 2016 to fill the seat left by Jordan’s retirement;
  • Oran F. Whiting, appointed this Tuesday to fill the seat last held by Circuit Judge Litricia P. Payne, who the court reappointed to a subcircuit vacancy on Monday. For electoral purposes, Whiting essentially holds the seat left by Brewer’s retirement.

The other potential candidates who spoke to the party today, in the order they spoke, were:

  • Erin Antonietti
  • Richard G. Cenar Jr.
  • Joseph P.M. Clary
  • Athena A. Farmakis
  • Mike Gonzalez
  • Jonathan Clark Green
  • Jack J. Hagerty
  • Preston Jones Jr.
  • Kathaleen T. Lanahan
  • John Maher
  • Thomas McGuire
  • William McLaughlin
  • Thomas E. Nowinski
  • James A. Pontrelli
  • James Reilly
  • Ioana Salajanu
  • Athanasios “Tom” S. Sianis
  • Christ S. Stacey
  • Daniel Trevino
  • Lynn Weaver-Boyle
  • Frank J. Andreou
  • Joseph Chico
  • Rosa Maria Silva
  • Bradley R. Trowbridge
  • Erika Lyn Orr
  • Caroline Smith-Jones
  • Natalie L. Howse
  • Pamela Reaves-Harris

In addition to the seven current at-large spots on the bench, Board of Elections records indicate there are 27 subcircuit vacancies.

Before the remarks by judicial candidates Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was among the other countywide candidates who asked for the party’s backing Thursday.

Preckwinkle defended the penny-per-ounce tax the county imposed on sweetened beverages, which has been surrounded in political and legal controversy since its implementation last month.

“We have two choices: We can either lay off 1,100 people … or raise revenue,” Preckwinkle said of the tax that was challenged in court by a retailers’ group. “I think that was the right thing to do.”

Preckwinkle said the tax has been marred by poor messaging and that the county would launch a campaign to correct that later this month.