In an effort to inform the readers, the Daily Union has asked each candidate for major local races to answer questions.
The following are questions for Shelby County State’s Attorney. Candidates are incumbent Deborah Riley and challenger Gina Vonderheide.
Q. State your qualifications for State's Attorney.
Riley: I have been a prosecutor for over ten years. During law school, I prosecuted ordinance violations for the City of Chicago. After graduating from law school and spending about nine months working as an attorney in Washington, D.C., I was hired as an Assistant State's Attorney for Coles County. In December 2004, I was hired as the Assistant State's Attorney for Shelby County. I served as Assistant State's Attorney for Shelby County until July 2010, when I was fired while on maternity leave by the Appointed State's Attorney, who replaced Allan Lolie after he was appointed Associate Judge. I then won the 2010 special election for Shelby County State's Attorney in November 2010, and took office as State's Attorney on December 1, 2010. I have proudly served as Shelby County State's Attorney since then and hope to continue serving as State's Attorney for Shelby County for the next four years.
I hope that the citizens of Shelby County will look at the respective candidate's experience and qualifications and then vote for the person that they feel can best enforce the laws and protect the community from those individuals who refuse to follow the law. I have taken dozens of cases to jury and bench trials, argued numerous motion hearings and sentencing hearings. I have prosecuted all types of criminal cases, including murder, sex offenses, methamphetamine, controlled substances, juvenile abuse and neglect, all other types of felony , misdemeanor and traffic charges.
Vonderheide: I am a practicing attorney in Shelby County and I have practiced criminal defense and civil law for 8 years. I held the office of State’s Attorney for a time in 2010.
Q. How would you describe the job as State's Attorney?
Riley: As the Shelby County State’s Attorney, I represent the People of the State of Illinois in virtually all of the criminal prosecutions in Shelby County. I prosecute all traffic, misdemeanor, felony, juvenile delinquency and juvenile abuse/neglect cases. As State's Attorney, I am also responsible for commencing and prosecuting all actions and proceedings brought against the County or against any County Office Holders.
Vonderheide: Our Illinois Supreme Court Rules state that the duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict. As State’s Attorney, I would be tough on crime while still maintaining fairness and common sense. The State’s Attorney also advises the County regarding the various legal issues it may face.
Q. Why are you running for office?
Riley: I am running for re-election as Shelby County State's Attorney because I believe the citizens of Shelby County deserve to be represented by a qualified and experienced State's Attorney. I believe that as the current State's Attorney, I have done and continue to do what the people of Shelby County elected me to do--uniformly and fairly enforce the laws of the State of Illinois, free from political or socio-economic status, protect the citizens from criminals who violate the law, curb the influx of drugs into our communities, and protect crime victims' rights.
Vonderheide: I am running because I want to serve the public and because I believe I can do an excellent job. I will bring justice and integrity back to the office of State’s Attorney.
Q. What do you see is the main criminal issue in the county and how would you combat it?
Riley: As State's Attorney, I see the main criminal issue in Shelby County to be the illegal use and abuse of drugs. Most of the offenses perpetrated in Shelby County tend to involve either the consumption, delivery, possession, or the commission of a crime done to obtain illegal drugs. We have seen an increase in illegal drug use by teens and young adults in Shelby County. I believe it is the responsibility of the State's Attorney's Office to vigorously prosecute individuals who deliver and/or manufacture drugs including but not limited to, methamphetamine, K-2, K-4, and bath salts, in Shelby County. With vigorous prosecution of these offenders, I believe that it will deter individuals from manufacturing, possessing, and/or delivering drugs in Shelby County.
Vonderheide: There are several areas on concern in the county. One major area is property crime. As State’s Attorney, I would vigorously prosecute thefts, vandalism and bad checks. I would be a true voice for crime victims in the County. A second area of concern is juvenile crime. Our office would work to ensure that juvenile defendants will receive a swift and fair punishment, but still will have the resources provided so that they do not commit other offenses in the future. Finally, the job of the State’s Attorney is to enforce the laws to ensure the safety of all Shelby County residents. As your next State’s Attorney, I will prosecute violent crimes to the fullest extent of the law.