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Polish man’s name didn’t work for judicial candidate, so now he’s Shannon O’Malley
Cook County judge candidate Phillip Spiwak changed his name to Shannon P. O’Malley.
In the hit AMC shows “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” Bob Odenkirk plays Slippin’ Jimmy McGill, an Irish-American attorney who changes his name to the Jewish-sounding Saul Goodman to lend his business an air of legitimacy.
But if you’re running for judge in Cook County, history shows there’s no better name to have printed on the ballot than an Irish woman’s.
That appears to be the rationale behind the curious name switch adopted by the lawyer formerly known as Phillip Spiwak, a Schaumburg criminal defense and bankruptcy attorney who now goes by (say it with a brogue) Shannon P. O’Malley.
Spiwak unsuccessfully ran for judge in 2010 under his old name as a Republican candidate in Will County. He changed his name in 2012, according to the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Now he’s running as a Democrat under his new name for a vacancy in Cook County’s 13th judicial sub-circuit, which includes Schaumburg, Palatine, Wheeling, Hanover and Barrington.
O’Malley — whose name change was first reported by Injustice Watch — did not return calls seeking comment Monday. But there is longstanding evidence that the luck of the Irish does indeed apply in Chicago’s judicial elections. Since at least the 1980s, candidates for judge in Cook County have been taking Irish names to boost their chances at the polls; a 2011 DePaul University study found that having the only Irish woman’s name in a judicial race is worth more than a party slating.
A 2007 state law attempted to bring an end to the practice of candidates changing their names to gain an electoral advantage, by requiring them to disclose their previous names on the ballot. But it only applies to candidates who have changed their names within three years of the election, and therefore does not apply to O’Malley.
Alas, for O’Malley, the seat is routinely won by Republicans. In a down-ballot race in which voters typically vote strictly on party lines, his name change in unlikely to be enough. ’Tis a shame!