DeKALB – The candidates for DeKalb County state’s attorney squared off Wednesday at a candidates’ night in which the attendance of people in other races was spotty.
Republican incumbent Clay Campbell and Democratic challenger Richard Schmack briefly fought over John Farrell – a former assistant state’s attorney who lied to county officials about the status of a zoning case they lost in 2011 – their responsibilities in drug court and whether they had the right plan to make the county safer.
Campbell said he was disgusted by Schmack’s use of the issue for political gain.
“Mr. Farrell had served this community for a long time ... he has served, in many instances in my office, with distinction,” Campbell said. “Anybody who was following the story that was reported today can clearly see that he’s suffering from personal issues.”
As the plaintiff’s attorney in the case Farrell lied about, Schmack countered that the public deserved to know what happened.
“Certainly, I advised him that I thought this reflected poorly on how [Campbell] was running his office,” Schmack said.
Both candidates agreed it is necessary to work with multiple agencies, especially Northern Illinois University. However, Schmack discounted Campbell’s laundry list of agencies and programs he has worked with as being rhetoric.
“A better managed system is how we stop crime in this county, or reduce it,” Schmack said.
Campbell said the focus of his office is public safety, and that he has a better grasp of the criminal threats facing the county than Schmack does.
They also disagreed on what the role of state’s attorney should be in the county’s drug court. Schmack said he felt the court merited the personal attention of the state’s attorney. Campbell countered that his role should be with victims’ families in the homicide cases he has prosecuted.
“It is unconscionable that I spend an excessive amount of time in drug court,” Campbell said, adding Schmack’s grandstanding on it is “ridiculous.”
By comparison, the candidates for the 23rd judicial circuit took three minutes to bolster their own cases for the position, and not on their opponent’s qualifications.
Associate Circuit Judge Bill Brady said the most important job of a judge is to listen.
“If you don’t listen, if you are not patient, you miss the critical details to decide a case,” Brady said. “I do not miss those details because I do listen.”
Associate Circuit Judge Ron Matekaitis, on the other hand, emphasized the independence of his campaign. He said he has forbid his campaign committee from receiving contributions from attorneys and their spouses.
“I’m doing so because it’s important to acknowledge the common perception that the influence of money can affect our lawmaking and judicial systems,” Matekaitis said, adding that he has instructed his staff to not tell him who has donated to his campaign.
Unlike the state’s attorney candidates, the candidates for the 23rd judicial circuit did not answer questions that were submitted to WNIJ reporter Sue Stephens, the debate moderator.
Kay Shelton, president of the League of Women Voters for DeKalb County, explained to the crowd in the DeKalb City Council chambers that while all candidates were invited, not everyone could attend.
Complicating matters was that the candidates’ night was held at the same time as a county board meeting. To accommodate them, the league allowed the candidates to have another person represent them.
The only Congressional candidate who appeared Wednesday was Wanda Rohl, who is challenging Rep. Adam Kinzinger for the 16th Congressional District. Kinzinger’s campaign said he couldn’t make it.
Rohl said the district deserves a representative who represents the people and not special interests.
“The House of Representatives is the people’s House, and I think it’s time we take it back,” Rohl said.