Illinois Politician Changes Name to Sound More Irish

Shannon O'Malley (the former Phillip Spiwak) and his family, c. 2010. (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
April / May 2018

The former Phillip Spiwak, a Polish American attorney who unsuccessfully ran for a judicial position in Illinois’s Will County as a Republican in 2010, has a new identity in hopes of boosting his turnout in this year’s race. In addition to a party change – he is now running as a Democrat for a vacancy in Cook County’s 13th judicial subcircuit – the name voters will be presented with on the ballot is also new, and decidedly Irish: Shannon P. O’Malley.

O’Malley (right) follows in a long line of Chicago-area predecessors who have legally changed their names in favor of more Irish-sounding monikers in order to gain an electoral advantage.

The practice was so widespread in fact, that in 2007 the Illinois state legislature passed a law requiring candidates who have changed their name within the past three years to report both names on the ballot except in cases of marriage or divorce.

O’Malley, however, will not have to disclose his previous name. In a remarkable bit of foresight and preparation, he changed his name in 2012.

“It had always been accepted as fact that an Irish name is a big advantage in Cook County, and the election results in the county’s history certainly bear that out,” Cook County elections expert Albert Klumpp told NBC. Klumpp is the author of the 2011 DePaul University study confirming this lore, “Judicial Primary Elections in Cook County, Illinois: Fear the Irish Women!” (which also showed that traditionally female names have an edge over male ones).

Even with the name change though, O’Malley’s chances of success this year are low. The Cook County judicial seat has been universally won by the Republican. ♦


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