Nicholas Kantas, who married into the powerful Ronan family of lobbyists, is running for Cook County judge with the help of lobbyist campaign money
Lawyer Nicholas Kantas’ father-in-law, recently retired Illinois lobbyist Al Ronan, is not helping him in his run for Cook County judge, according to Kantas’ campaign.
But Kantas gets help from other influential lobbyists, including his wife Maren Ronan, who is Al Ronan’s daughter and helps Kantas knock on doors to reach voters.
Several other powerful political lobbyists donated money to Kantas ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary. Among the contributing lobbyists in recent months:
• CapitolHall Partners LLC, which gave him $1,000 in April. Based in Chicago and headed by Margaret Houlihan Smith, the company lobbies for clients including Accel Entertainment LLC, one of Illinois’ largest video game companies, and ComEd, which is embroiled in a racketeering involving former Illinois President Michael Madigan.
“Maren is one of my dearest friends,” Smith says. “She’s actually my roommate in Springfield. I’ve probably known her for 30 years, and I think the world of her. That’s why I support them. It’s a personal friendship.
She says Kantas is well qualified. “We need more people like him,” Smith says.
• Springfield lobbyist Julie Curry, who gave Kantas $1,000 in April. Her Curry & Associates, LLC, is a lobbyist for a real estate company run by Rick Heidner, a video poker mogul. In 2019, the FBI went looking for “items related to” Heidner when it served a search warrant during a raid on the Springfield office of Senator Martin Sandoval as part of an investigation into the political corruption. Authorities later said Heidner was not the target of the investigation.
Curry’s firm has a contractual relationship with Maren Ronan’s lobbying firm, Maren Ronan Ltd., based in Western Springs.
Curry says Kantas and his wife are “personal friends.”
• Heather Vaught, who donated $1,000 to the Kantas campaign in January. Clients of her lobby firm at La Grange, Heather Wier Vaught, PC, include Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Sports Betting Alliance, records show.
Vaught, who is a lawyer, handled Madigan’s legal work while he was a speaker and his aides in his political and government operations faced accusations of sexual harassment.
“I’ve been friends with Maren Ronan for 20 years,” Vaught says. “We studied law together. Nobody even asked me to give money.
Kantas – who runs in a judicial district that stretches from the northwest to the southwest suburbs – also relies on Berwyn attorney Michael Del Galdo, a Madigan ally and former Madigan political fundraiser. , for his campaign. Del Galdo is listed as having provided $2,285 in legal services to Kantas’ campaign, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records.
Kantas said of Del Galdo’s role, “Mike was helpful in some parts of the campaign. He does nothing on a daily basis. I run the campaign.
Del Galdo is also working to help ShawnTe Raines-Welch win another court seat in the same district. She is married to Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Madigan ally who succeeded him in this powerful position.
Kantas, 43, lives in Western Springs and is a supervising prosecutor in the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
His opponent in the primary ballot, Amanda Pillsbury, is also a prosecutor under Foxx.
The Lyon Township Democratic Organization, led by Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek, helped organize a fundraiser for Kantas in Hickory Hills, records show. Landek, who is also a state senator, is a longtime ally of Madigan, who resigned from the Illinois House in 2021 after being linked to the ComEd scandal.
Al Ronan’s former lobbying firm was shut down after the firm pleaded guilty to charges in a bid-rigging case in the early 2000s. He opened another firm, but says he is now retired.
Maren Ronan’s lobbying firm took over many of her father’s more recent lobbying clients, including a major player in the red-light camera industry.
“I didn’t do anything on the ‘for Kantas’ campaign because I had a stroke almost a year ago,” says Al Ronan. “So you know what? I wish him the best, I know how hard he works.
Kantas says his wife is not fundraising for his campaign.
“She helps me go door to door and reach out to voters,” he says.
He says he receives campaign contributions based on “my experience and qualifications”.