After embracing family, friends and supporters Tuesday night as unofficial totals from the last precincts came in, Democrat Richard Schmack said his election to the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office showed voters were looking for another option.
According to unofficial totals, Schmack received 19,876 votes, or 51 percent, edging out incumbent State’s Attorney Clay Campbell, who garnered 18,798 votes, or 49 percent.
Schmack, who announced his candidacy for state’s attorney in May after being caucused in by county Democrats, said he was not surprised at the results and expected the race to be close.
“I feel very good about it because it says people are not going to look at party labels or incumbency as the be-all, end-all,” Schmack said at a gathering at Joker’s Bar & Grill in Sycamore.
Tuesday saw the conclusion of a race that became contentious at times as Schmack and Campbell clashed on a number of issues, including the priorities of the office and the state’s attorney’s role in the county’s drug court program.
“This feels great, mainly because of the support from the folks here,” said Schmack, gesturing to the crowd at Joker’s, who cheered and applauded when final results were posted. “... I’m looking forward to getting in there and going to work on Dec. 3.”
The day Schmack takes office is the day William “Billy” Curl’s trial is scheduled to begin.
Curl is charged with killing former Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller in October 2010.
Schmack said he expects the trial will begin that day and has the utmost confidence in the prosecutors handling the case.
Campbell did not appear at a gathering of supporters Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
Schmack has been an attorney for 32 years, working in private practice for much of that time.
Before that, he was a prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office and has been the village attorney for Kirkland.
Schmack campaigned on returning the office to what it’s supposed to do, including providing sound advice to county officials and defending the county in court.
Campbell, elected state’s attorney in 2010, defeated Republican Sean Smith in this year’s primary. He touted his experience in office and established relationships with law enforcement officials.
Campbell accused Schmack of negative campaigning and questioned his use of the slogan “to do the job right.”
Campbell pointed to recent guilty verdicts in murder trials, including the Jack D. McCullough case, and wondered what Schmack meant by not doing the job right.
Schmack contended that people expect a challenger to compare himself to an incumbent and detail what would be done differently if elected.
He said he'd like to see the state's attorney's office more strictly
prosecute traffic and driving under the influence cases, which he said pose a significant threat to public safety.