Medill News Service - The Blessing and Curse of Being a Burke
Anne Burke is empowered and bounded by her last name.
Of course, that was her choice. Anne McGlone, a South Side native, married Edward Burke in 1968, when they were both 24, and has been a Burke, for better or worse, ever since.
For many years her career took a backseat to his, as he became one of the youngest alderman; he now is the longest-serving council member.
Meanwhile, Anne raised four children and also devoted her energy to the Chicago Park District, where she helped found the Chicago Special Olympics.
Then, Anne went back to college to get her bachelor's degree in education at DePaul University in 1976, and received her law degree in 1983 at Chicago-Kent College of Law at the age of 40. Come November, she will be elected to serve a 10-year term as an Illinois Supreme Court justice, barring anything unforeseen.
Burke was nominated in Tuesday's primary as the Democratic candidate for the seat to which she was appointed after Justice Mary Ann McMorrow, the first female on the state's high court, retired in 2006.
Burke ran unopposed Tuesday and apparently will not have a challenger in November, save any independent write-in candidates.
She had a clear field, associates say, for a reason.
"People are smart enough not to try to run against her," said Justice William Bauer of the U.S. Court of Appeals. "It's like bucking a locomotive at this stage of the game. I wouldn't try it myself."
The Republican Bauer has worked with Burke on a legal, judicial and social level.
His respect for Burke epitomizes the bipartisan support that made her such an intimidating candidate for those who may have considered opposing her.
Burke said she was both flabbergasted and relieved when she found out she would run unopposed. She attributes it to the fact that she's been around a while.
"Anyone wishing to oppose me would have had to spend a great deal of money to try to get name recognition themselves to come to par with me," she said.
That's where her last name is an asset.
"If I wasn't married to Ed, with the name Burke, I might not be where I am today," she said. "But somebody won [Tuesday] who has no relation, and his name is Burke, and he might not be there where he is today without the name Burke."
That somebody was Dennis Burke, who beat a sitting judge to win a spot on the Cook County Circuit Court.
Burke supports electing judges, but she regrets that name recognition means so much on the ballot, in part because many voters don't educate themselves.
Despite the boost her surname gives her, people say that's not where it ends.
Undeniably, Edward Burke, who has represented the 14th Ward on the Southwest Side since 1969, has been a tremendous help to her, said David Cerda, a retired justice who worked alongside Anne Burke on the Illinois Appellate Court.
"It would have taken her longer to achieve that post," he said, "but eventually she would have done it anyway."
But, with the advantages the Burke name brings to Anne also come the need to distinguish herself. It does bother her at times that people attribute her success to her husband's own, but that has inspired her to do public events so people get to know her.
"I needed to make sure that people knew I was an independent person," she said. "All of our friends know that I am very independent, I mean I worked for a Republican governor against my husband's wishes." Burke actually worked for two former Republican governors: James Thompson and Jim Edgar.
"We almost got divorced over that one," Burke the husband joked. They do have their disagreements on issues and, in that case, he said he thought she was being used. But he is quick to highlight her independence and point out he couldn't do everything for her.
"It's clear that I couldn't take the tests for her," he said. "It's like that old Irish saying, You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.'"
The Burkes have a mutual respect and, according to both, still find enough time for family.
Their cottage in Wisconsin serves as an escape where they can spend time with their four children and grandchildren. A fifth child, Emmett, died in a 2004 snowmobile accident.
One of their children, 11-year-old Travis, is autistic. The Burkes won a custody battle for Travis, an infant born with cocaine in his system.
Now, busy as ever, the Burkes are not looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Neither is daunted about the prospect of Anne, at 64, taking on a 10-year term starting in December.
"I can't even spell the word retirement," Ald. Burke said.
Some of Anne's colleagues are glad to know she will be around for a while.
"She's a superb addition to the bench and Illinois is lucky to have her where she is," Bauer said.
Her ability to listen is what set her apart on the appellate court, according to Cerda. He called her a leader among the justices and said that the Burkes "are very outstanding citizens of the city of Chicago and very generous in sharing their time."