Senate candidates McConchie, Peterson debate SAFE-T Act, abortion at forum

Election 2024
The candidates in the 26th State Senate District are Democrat Maria Peterson, left, and incumbent state Sen. Dan McConchie.

Republican state Sen. Dan McConchie and Democratic challenger Maria Peterson jousted over issues including abortion and the SAFE-T Act on Wednesday during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area.

The back-and-forth between the candidates for the 26th Senate District seat often turned personal, while an engaged crowd frequently became vocal.

Peterson defended the SAFE-T Act, the controversial criminal justice reform package that will eliminate cash bail in Illinois beginning Jan. 1.

“[The act addresses] the chaotic situation that we have in the criminal justice system, where dangerous criminals can pay their way out back onto the street, even before a police officer has an opportunity to finish the paperwork,” the North Barrington resident said.

But McConchie, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said the legislation makes Illinois less safe.

“It ties the hands of judges who are working to try to keep us safe” and keep the most dangerous people in jail, the Hawthorn Woods resident said.

On abortion, McConchie defended his pro-life beliefs and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“I am pro-life. I make no apology for that,” he said. “What Dobbs did was return the right to you as people through your elected representatives to be able to decide whether or not to regulate abortion at all.”

He criticized the Democrat-led General Assembly for moves in recent years to lift restrictions on partial birth abortions and require parental notification for a minor who receives an abortion.

“Worse yet, they repealed the requirement that a coroner be required to perform an autopsy on a woman who died from a botched abortion. That is extreme,” he said.

Peterson said she appreciates Illinois Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias’ proposal to limit the use of automatic license plate readers so that the technology cannot be used against women coming into the state for an abortion. She also said that Illinois should follow the lead of states such as Kansas and Alaska that have codified abortion rights within the state constitution.

The 26th District includes all or parts of Algonquin, the Barrington area, Deer Park, Fox River Grove, Hawthorn Woods, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Island Lake, Kildeer, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Long Grove, Mundelein, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Tower Lakes, Volo and Wauconda.