The go-to election lawyer for Mike Madigan and Rahm Emanuel is mildly horrified to hear some attorneys call him “the dean” of the election bar.
The jolt comes during a rare interview with Michael Kasper, general counsel for the Illinois Democratic Party. Sitting in the lobby of the Langham Hotel, Kasper explains the real dean was the late Michael Lavelle Sr., and furthermore, “I don’t want to be old enough to be the dean of anything, for crying out loud.”
It’s hard to argue that the 52-year-old hasn’t earned the title, though. As the Democrats’ top lawyer, Kasper represents party-backed politicians in scuffles that determine who stays on the ballot and who gets kicked off. He secured Emanuel’s spot following a legal challenge to his Chicago residency during his 2011 run for mayor. And this month, the Illinois Supreme Court handed Kasper his second win in two years, blocking a push to change how the state draws legislative maps. It was a ruling that thwarted Gov. Bruce Rauner, three Supreme Court justices and the 550,000 people who signed a petition to place the issue on the November ballot.
Yet on a personal level, everyone seems to like Mike Kasper. Opponents describe him as clout-heavy but competent, fair, agreeable—a good winner and, sometimes, a good loser. Attorney Frank Avila Jr. faced off against him in December 2014, when Emanuel tried to bounce mayoral candidate Willie Wilson from the ballot. Kasper, he says, is “a pleasant, polite, professional Prince of Darkness.”