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Don Knapp defeats Amy McFarland in circuit judge race

Knapp McFarland
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McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp faced Judge Amy McFarland for a circuit judgeship in the 11th Judicial Circuit in Tuesday's Republican primary.

McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp appears poised to become the next circuit judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit after defeating Associate Judge Amy McFarland in Tuesday's Republican primary.

While votes were still being counted late in some of the smaller counties in the circuit, Knapp held a big lead over McFarland. Knapp led with 60% of the vote — with McLean County, Bloomington city, Logan, and Livingston counties all reporting 100% of votes in.

The circuit judge race pitted Republican candidates from different backgrounds.

Knapp has been McLean County state’s attorney since 2018 when the county board appointed him to replace Jason Chambers, who became a judge. Knapp led the office’s civil division prior to that. During the campaign, Knapp touted a multitude of endorsements from law enforcement agencies across the circuit and a range of prior experience that included time as a lawyer for State Farm and as an appellate court clerk.

McFarland was appointed associate judge in 2016 and was later put in charge of the court’s family division. She also garnered endorsements from a number of retired circuit judges, including Paul Lawrence, the judge she was looking to replace. She also earned a “recommended” rating in a judicial advisory poll of attorneys with the Illinois State Bar Association. Knapp was “not recommended.”

Lawrence announced his retirement last year after serving nearly two decades on the bench.

Knapp was top vote-getter in McLean County, home base for both candidates, and Knapp maintained his advantage in each of the less-populated counties.

McFarland conceded in a statement posted to Facebook late Tuesday.

"It is an honor to serve as presiding judge for the family division and recovery court in the 11th Judicial Circuit. I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the 11th Circuit as an associate judge by applying the laws of Illinois and the constitution, and leading with the principles of fairness, accountability, integrity, and respect," McFarland said.

Knapp will likely be seated on Dec. 5. There are no Democratic candidates for the seat in the general election. His election to the bench also will create a vacancy for the job of the county’s top prosecutor.

The 11th Judicial Circuit includes McLean, Ford, Livingston, Logan, and Woodford counties.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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