DeKALB – As President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave their vision for the country, candidates for local offices had their chance to tell residents why they should lead their communities in the coming years.
Candidates in contested races throughout DeKalb County addressed roughly 100 people at the Egyptian Theatre on Wednesday night during the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s Candidates Night.
In the state’s attorney race, incumbent Clay Campbell and challenger Richard Schmack, who was caucused in by the Democrats, took different routes in trying to win over voters.
Campbell, who said he was specifically talking to DeKalb city residents, touted his staff and law enforcement for the prosecutions that have happened in his tenure and said he is fully committed to stopping the drug trafficking and crime concerns that continue to grow in DeKalb.
“I feel personally responsible to the citizens of this city,” Campbell said. “I share your concerns … we have assembled the finest prosecutors and law enforcement to meet those concerns.”
Schmack talked about his experience in multiple roles including assistant state’s attorney, village attorney and a 28-year private practice lawyer. But he was also critical of Campbell, saying he would use the office to “give sound advice and not sound bites” to officials and would not focus on areas out of his authority such as Northern Illinois University admission standards and landlords’ tenant choices.
“I’m not a flamboyant orator nor do I use alarmist rhetoric,” Schmack said, adding he would serve in a “professional, thoughtful and business-like fashion.”
Campbell responded by saying he would not launch a negative campaign as the work ahead was too important.
“A long time ago I swore off negative campaigning and I won’t engage in it here tonight,” he said. “It’s not about name calling or mud slinging, it’s about trying to keep our neighborhood safe.”
Schmack ended the exchange by talking about the importance of the drug court program and the need for the state’s attorney to be engaged in it.
Before the state’s attorney hopefuls took the stage, Republican Bill Brady and Democrat Ron Matekaitis made their case to be the judge of the 23rd Judicial Circuit. Both Brady and Matekaitis praised each other as good judges and men, but also tried to show their differences.
Brady talked about how family, community and his profession being his three greatest passions in life and how his work in his profession has benefited his community. Matekaitis talked about his experience in all three branches of government and as the county’s state’s attorney as valuable experience he brings to the position.
The only other races where a Democrat and Republican were pitted against each other on stage were the regional superintendent race with Republican Derek Avery and Democrat Amanda Christensen and the DeKalb County District 9 race with incumbent Julia Fauci and Republican challenger Samuel-Louis Bandy Jr.
Many of the people in attendance were friends, family and campaign supporters, but some residents said it was an important opportunity.
Roger Craigmile of Malta said he came to the forum because he likes to stay informed about local politics and believed his decision in these races would have more importance than at the national level.
“The people that are here will make the decisions that will affect us locally,” Craigmile said of his decision to pass on the presidential debate.
Kathy Watkins, of DeKalb, went into the forum with an open mind and said she was unsure of who she would support. But being in a new district because of redrawn boundaries was enough reason for her to get to know the new candidates.
“Closest to my heart is the issue of education and then jobs,” Watkins said. “So I want to see what they have to say.”