By Nathan Tucker
Candidates vying for varying elected offices gathered at Haskell Park in Alton on Thursday, July 23 for a public forum, presented by the YWCA in Alton. Among the want-to-be officials were candidates for County Board Chair, State’s Attorney and Circuit Clerk.
The forum provided an opportunity for the candidates to introduce themselves to the socially-distanced public at the park and those taking in the forum from the comforts of their homes through an online stream.
YWCA Executive Director Dorothy Hummel used her opening statements to explain the importance of election participation. As a member of Edwardsville City Council and School Board, along with her work with the YWCA, Hummel has seen first-hand how elections impact local government.
“Local elections are important,” said Hummel. “Decisions made by local governments and elected officials truly have an effect on our daily lives.”
Hummel also didn’t pull any punches with her opening remarks, diving right into some of the day’s toughest topics, including ongoing protests against police brutality and the nation’s ongoing struggles in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These are challenging times we’re living in. The death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among countless others, are just the latest evidence of violence and brutality today in our country.” Hummel read, from her prepared statement. “Across the nation, and in Madison County, protests have been held and continue to be held against police brutality and systemic, institutional and individual racism.”
“The COVID pandemic has hit us hard, affecting 3.9 million Americans, and killing over 143,000 people.” Hummel stated, before the death total had officially been declared at 150,000 this week. “In Madison County, yesterday we learned of 62 new cases, 71 deaths (total in the county) today, and a positivity test rate of 7.5 percent (note: which is very high). We know COVID disproportionally affects people of color, and unfortunately this is true even in Madison County.”
To borrow a now often-used expression, we’re living in an unprecedented time in human history. Hummel reiterated that those elected to these offices will play a part in shaping that history in the area.
Hummel explained the offices, the responsibilities of each and gave a word of thanks to the event’s sponsors as she handed over the mic to the candidates. She also thanked the candidates, who might shape change in local government.
Democratic candidate for State’s Attorney, Crystal Uhe, talked about her passion for helping crime victims in Madison county. Uhe is currently the First Assistant State’s Attorney.
Uhe started her career pushing papers as a file clerk in 2005, and worked her way up the ladder as a prosecutor in the Violent Crimes Unit.
“I’ve worked my way up through nearly every division and management position within the office. I’ve spent the past seven or eight years in the Violent Crimes division, prosecuting the worst of the worst there is in Madison County.” Uhe recalled. “Once elected, not only will I be the first female State’s Attorney, but the most experienced trial attorney to ever hold this position.”
Her Republican opponent, Alton native Tom Haine, flouted his military experience. Haine is the son of former State’s Attorney and State Senator Bill Haine.
“I was in ROTC in college, and I took an oath to defend the constitution because I love it. I love our country and think it’s a fantastic place to be” Haine said as he introduced himself in his hometown. He then stopped his statements momentarily to acknowledge a drone that was filming a little too close for his liking above his head. “Who said there was gonna be a drone? 2020, that’s where we’re at, huh.”
Haine continued after the drone returned to a safe distance away from his head. Haine wrapped up his thoughts, saying that he’s running because he wants to serve his home and hometown, wanting to make the community better for his children and the residents of Alton.
In the race for Circuit Clerk, Democrat Amy Gabriel will go toe-to-toe with Republican Tom McRae. Gabriel’s experience as an attorney, who “lives in the courthouse”, compared against McRae’s experience “in life” and on the Madison County School Board.
“The Circuit Clerks and the Deputy Clerks are in charge of the business of the courthouse, all of the legal filings, all the fees and fines, that’s what the Circuit Clerk is in charge of.” Gabriel said. “I believe it takes someone who’s been in that courthouse, who’s worked with the judges and attorneys and the clerks. And most importantly, the community who comes into that courthouse every day, that’s why I believe I am the one with the knowledge and the experience to be your Circuit Clerk.”
Both candidates were asked about adding diversity to the workforce in these positions of prosecution. Gabriel insisted the issue is something that needs to be acted upon. Her Republican opponent agreed, as well.
“There’s 81 employees in the Circuit Clerk’s office, and only six are African-American, and I think we can do better than that. We should do better than that.” McRae stated. “I think we all need to make sure and embrace diversity with males, females, black, white. Because everybody brings something to the table. And I think we sure value other people’s opinions and their perspective. And by having that diversity, you only enhance the workplace, and you enhance the experience for everybody that’s involved.”
Former Regional Superintendent of Schools for Madison County Bob Daiber is the Democratic candidate for County Board Chairman. Republican candidate and current County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler was invited to the forum but did not attend.
“I have served in the capacity of Village Trustee, a Township Supervisor, I served on the County Board,” said Daiber. “We can do big things again in this community, because there’s so much potential in Madison County. But it takes true leadership, and it takes an initiative to want to get things done, and to include communities, and to work with mayors, and to work with Township Supervisors to help people, and to move this county forward.”
The candidates will be on the ballot in this November’s election. For more information on these elections, visit Madison County’s Elections Page.
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