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Race for DeKalb County State's Attorney heats up

DeKALB – At least three local attorneys are seeking the Republican nomination to run for the office of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney.

Hinckley attorney Charles Rea, Sycamore attorney Rick Amato and former DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell will campaign for the Republican nomination in the March primary. The winner of that contest would face the Democratic nominee in the November general election.

The presumptive Democratic nominee – DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack – hasn’t said if he will run for another term.

A three-way contest for the Republican nomination could mean extra work for the candidates, said Steve Kuhn, chairman of the DeKalb County Republican Central Committee.

“They are going to have to work to get their names out there,” he said.

Amato announced Friday that he would seek the nomination. If elected, he said he plans to focus on moving cases through the criminal justice system with fewer delays and improving communication between the State’s Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement officials.

“I worry about how things are going to be 10 and 15 years from now,” Amato said. “I think about how law enforcement and the criminal justice system gets viewed.”

Amato served as an assistant state’s attorney in DeKalb County for one year in 2003, before leaving to begin his own practice in Sycamore, according to a news release.

“I think now is the right time for me personally as well as the community. I think the community’s always wanting new people to be able to enter the position and serve and give back,” Amato said. “While I have not [held public office] I have been part of the community.”

Campbell, who was voted out of office in 2012, said he’s concerned with the community safety. Campbell first announced he planned to seek his party’s nomination in May.

“I think that there’s a lot that’s going on that’s not being confronted. Particularly, we have a lot of concerns in the city of DeKalb in regard to public safety,” Campbell said. “We have this ongoing mental health problem that continues to plague the country.”

During his tenure as state’s attorney, Campbell prosecuted Jack D. McCullough for the 1957 kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph of Sycamore in September 2012. However, Campbell came under fire for freezing operations of the county’s drug court program, a decision that came on the heels of a loss for his office in a separate rape trial for McCullough. In giving the not guilty verdict, Judge Robbin Stuckert was highly critical of the state’s attorney’s lack of preparation and execution in the rape case.

Campbell attempted to run for DeKalb County Board in District 3 in 2014, but his name was removed from the ballot as a result of a challenge. The address on his voter registration and driver’s license conflicted with the one listed on his nominating petitions, disqualifying him.

Rea, a Hinckley attorney with an office in Plano, hasn’t made an official announcement, but he told the Daily Chronicle that he plans to do so.

“Ultimately, the concept is that you’re sworn to do justice. The State’s Attorney’s Office, you can’t just do things on a cookie-cutter basis,” Rea said. “Right now they have a system in place that I don’t think caters very well to the public. It doesn’t cater to the victims of crime very well. It doesn’t cater well to the police department. It doesn’t cater well to the citizens of DeKalb County. It’s wasteful.”

Signed petitions for all candidates are due Nov. 23.

The 2016 primary election is scheduled for March 15, 2016.

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