SYCAMORE – In the race for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, candidate Rick Amato started the year with the largest campaign war chest, but has been criticized for his voting record.
Amato, a Sycamore attorney, started 2016 with more than $18,000 in campaign receipts and $9,700 on hand. Most of the funds are loans Amato made to his campaign committee. He has loaned his campaign more than $17,000, according to filings with the state board of elections.
Former DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell’s campaign committee had receipts of $1,055.12 and the same amount on hand. Hinckley attorney Charles Rea established a campaign committee in November, but didn’t file a quarterly report for the period ending Dec. 31. He said he hasn’t yet held a fundraiser, but that his campaign signs would start going up in the next week.
Amato said his cash lead shows he’s a committed candidate. His opponents said they aren’t worried, but seized on Amato’s voting record, which shows he has pulled Democratic ballots in four of the past six primaries. The last time he took out a Republican ballot was in the March 2006 primary, according to DeKalb County election records. Amato didn’t vote in DeKalb County in 2014, county records show.
“I don’t know how you consistently vote Democratic and then come out as a Republican,” Campbell said. “It’s a little bit disingenuous.”
Rea said “the voters can make their own decisions” about Amato’s voting record.
Amato said that he is a Republican, but pulled Democratic ballots so he could vote for who he thought was the most qualified candidate in local races regardless of party affiliation.
DeKalb County Republican Party Chairman Steve Kuhn said he had talked to Amato about his voting record early on and called it a “nonissue.” Kuhn said Amato is a member of the DeKalb County Republican Party.
Amato’s firm, the Law Office of Amato & Sheen, has donated to candidates from both parties. In February 2012, for example, the firm donated $500 to Campbell’s campaign.
After Democrats picked Richard Schmack to enter the race in May 2012, Amato’s firm donated $500 to Schmack’s campaign as well, records show.
Most of the firm’s donations have been to candidates in local races, primarily those running for the state’s attorney’s office or a judgeship.
Asked about the 2012 donation from the Law Office of Amato & Sheen, Schmack said he took it at face value.
“I assume he gave me money in 2012 because he thought I was the best candidate for the job in a race between myself and Clay Campbell,” Schmack said.
Amato said he had put money aside to finance his campaign and that he felt this was the best time for him to run for the position.
“I have credibility,” Amato said, “from the street level up through the courthouse.”