By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — — A candidate's forum Wednesday hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce provided voters with information to take to the polls Tuesday.
The forum featured candidates for the races of Jefferson County sheriff, 115th state representative and Regional Office of Education for Clinton, Marion, Washington and Jefferson counties.
Republicans Robert White of Mt. Vernon and Terri Bryant of Murphysboro traded barbs during the forum while Democrat Tony Mayville of DuBois pledged to fight against the Michael Madigan-led Democratic machine and the financial support thrown to candidate William Kilquist of Jackson County.
"My opponent has received over $100,000 now from two political campaign funds — one from Michael Madigan and the Democratic majority. I know a sitting state representative up north gave $5,000. All together, he's received $206,000 in $1,000 or more donations put into his campaign fund," Mayville said. "One donation of $1,000 came within the five counties in this district; the other $205,000 came out of this district. It's hard to fight that money, but we're fighting a very good fight. I've known Bill Kilquist for 20 years now and he's a pretty good guy. I'm sorry he's the one they talked into running against me, but don't make any mistake about it, this race is between Tony Mayville and Speaker Michael Madigan."
During his close, Kilquist said he believes he has demonstrated his abilities to the people of Southern Illinois over the course of 43 years as a police officer (in Carbondale), Jackson County sheriff and as warden of the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro. Kilquist is also a member of the Board of Trustees at John A. Logan College.
"If that's what you want from Bill Kilquist, that's what you're going to get; nothing more, nothing less," he said.
Candidates mostly agreed on what the state's top priorities should be — White opting for pension reform as the top priority, followed by a balanced budget and school funding. Kilquist listed jobs, pension reform and the income tax increase as leading causes. Bryant listed education, tax reform and pensions as top priorities and Mayville listed the budget crisis and education funding as top issues.
In answering a question about what outcomes the candidates are seeking, Kilquist replied, "I want to leave more than I take. I want to take good Southern Illinois values to Springfield."
Bryant said as a person of faith, she feels it is her responsibility to seek a political office. "I feel driven. Integrity and honor mean something to me. I was raised to work 10 hours a day for eight hours of pay, to give generously and let no one take from me and I believe I will carry that to Springfield as my core value."
"We judge ourselves by how we can help someone," Mayville said. "I'm in government now and I know government is broke. We need people to get in there and fix it," the Illinois Director of Mine Safety added. Mayville also said his first act if elected will be to vote against Madigan becoming Speaker of the House.
White said as county board chairman faced with unfunded mandates, the state needs strong representation. "You've got to have an alliance of legislators that will work for you and get things done for the people in your county," he said, noting Jefferson County has not state representation since 2000.
The audience of about 150 people reacted to White's rebuttal of a statement made earlier by Bryant, who as the coordinator of the Illinois GOP coalition said White was mistaken that he should seek out other legislators as his first act in Springfield. "They actually will seek you out," Bryant said.
White said he appreciated being "schooled by my opponent at to how things work in Springfield. While she was building coalitions up there and losing county board races down here, I was actually running for county board and being elected chairman and getting things done down here in the trenches."
Bryant responded that she ran in Jackson County because there were no other party candidates and she lost by fewer than 200 votes.
Regional Office of Education candidates are Keri Garrett, the current ROE for Clinton, Washington and Marion counties; Ron Daniels, the current ROE for Hamilton and Jefferson counties; and Jacob Purcell, an administrator for the Kaskaskia Special Education District.
Each candidate listed their qualifications for the position, which expands the new ROE district into Garrett's three counties, plus Jefferson. Hamilton County will be included in a district further to the south.
Garrett said school funding continues to be a "huge issue," and she wants to continue to help and advocate for schools since legislators are working on new funding formulas.
Daniels said he has had to deal with reducing staff and expenses, indicating he wants to continue to provide professional development, along with providing services by the ROE's office to area school districts.
In answering a question about future school consolidation, Purcell said, "The hardest thing to kill is the school mascot. It (consolidation) should be a local decision."
Daniels said consolidation may be necessary for some school districts, adding that each situation needs to be assessed "with the best quality of education provided."
Sheriff candidates attending included: Democrat incumbent Roger Mulch, Joey Porter and Travis Allen. Republican candidates are John Lewis, John Scott and David Morris.
Mulch has worked in the sheriff's department for 34 years, and was elected as sheriff in 2002.
Porter has been a deputy in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office the past 14 years. He has 20 years years of military experience and was a former DARE officer.
Allen is the current Chief of Police at Ina. He is a former Mt. Vernon Police Department officer and a supervisor at DuPont.
Lewis has 25 years of law enforcement experience and operates businesses in Jefferson County. Lewis said he has no agenda, other than to improve the community.
Morris, a truck driver and resident of the county for 20 years, said this is a chance to serve the community.
"I will bring honor and integrity back to the sheriff's office," he said.
Scott was unable to attend the forum, however he provided a statement to members of the media Wednesday afternoon.
"As many of you are aware, I am the power of attorney for my father's medical care. He has meetings set up several days this week, and on Wednesday, he has two appointments late in the day that I must attend."
He added, "This is a very important race for me, and I believe I have communicated my goals for the office of sheriff, out in the community at all the events my wife and I have attended, and we will be seeing more of the citizens in the days to come."