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Local Democratic, Republican parties scramble to fill empty ballot slots

Amato and Schmack vie for state’s attorney

DeKALB – With the primaries over, the stage is set for elections pitting Republican and Democratic candidates for county offices against one another.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack said his campaign will include the endorsement of specialty courts and programs to keep crime at bay and address underlying problems.

Schmack did not face a primary challenge and so didn’t need to campaign heavily. Now, however, he’s preparing to take on Republican attorney Richard Amato in November.

Amato beat his opponents Clay Campbell and Charles Rea with 5,632 votes, or 44 percent of the votes cast Tuesday night, and has garnered public support from local law enforcement.

But in his tenure, Schmack’s support for a mental health court and a sexual assault response team has earned him a following of his own.

“I have strong support in the law enforcement community, I believe – but it does vary with different people,” Schmack said. “I have support in every department, and I’m sure [Amato] does as well. Obviously, his support in law enforcement is related perhaps to who he was running against in the primaries.”

Amato has expressed throughout the election a need for an improved relationship and transparency between the community and its law enforcers, including the state’s attorney’s office. He also has advocated for quicker prosecutions and victim input throughout court proceedings.

Amato has lent himself $21,269 of the total $23,469 in contributions to his campaign fund as of Wednesday. Meanwhile, Schmack has been occupied reassigning duties after his office lost its top two prosecutors early this year. Former First Assistant State’s Attorney Duke Harris signed a mutual release agreement Feb. 11, and former felony prosecutor Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Finley resigned Jan. 1, documents show.

Chief of the Civil Division Stephanie Klein, stepped into Harris’ role in late January.

“Stephanie Klein is going to be every bit as good at first assistant as she was a civil assistant,” Schmack said. “I look forward to continuing to work with her. She is the most experienced person we have in this state’s attorneys office.”

November’s ballot also will include 14 County Board seats up for election; 11 of those races are uncontested, however.

Republican Jonathan Schmarje will face Democrat John J. Wett in District 2; Republican Laurie Emmer will face Democrat Virginia Sherrod in District 4, and Republican Demetri Broches faces Democrat Steve Faivre to finish a two-year, unexpired term in District 4.

Running uncontested for County Board are: Tracy Jones, R-District 1; Mark Pietrowski Jr., D-District 3; Timothy Bagby, R-District 3; Sandra Polanco, D-District 5; Craig S. Roman, D-District 6; Misty Haji-Sheikh, D-District 7; Chris Porterfield, D-District 8; Paul Stoddard, D-District 9; Jeff Whelan, R-District 10; Roy Plote, R-District 11; and Jerald Osland, R-12; who won a primary race last week.

Leaders of both the county’s Democratic and Republican parties, however, have plans to caucus in as many opponents as possible.

“I think the community, the state and the country are best served when we’ve got contested races,” DeKalb County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Stoddard said. “My race personally is uncontested. On the one hand, it means I don’t have to work as hard. ... On the other hand, it is disappointing. Having an opponent would force you to go out and campaign, and knock on doors and get to know as many people as you can.”

The county’s Republicans have their own plans to recruit candidates, Chairman Steve Kuhn said. The party’s new candidates will likely be announced in May.

“We’d like to caucus in everybody we have in an empty slot,” Kuhn said. “There are some who have more prime than others, and we’re going to make sure that we’re running.”

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