While the top Republican in the Illinois Senate, six-year incumbent state Sen. Dan McConchie, hopes to repeal the SAFE-T Act, the Democrat hoping to unseat him this fall supports the law, which implemented a slew of changes around criminal justice, including the elimination of cash bail.
McConchie and former attorney and longtime Barrington businesswoman, Democrat Maria Peterson are running in the 26th Senate District, which includes part or all of Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove and Island Lake.
Early voting began Thursday for the Nov. 8 general election.
McConchie, who described a “terrifying crime wave in Illinois and Chicago,” frames issues around crime as being about support for police, or lack thereof, while Peterson described approaching the issue in terms of fairness and minimizing biases.
Recently conservatives, including McConchie, have rallied around repealing the Illinois SAFE-T Act, particularly the elimination of cash bail, which will take effect Jan. 1. Many Democrats, including Gov. JB Pritzker,argue the current cash bail system needs to be reformed and the SAFE-T Act just requires clarification.
Peterson, who grew up in Chicago and has lived in Barrington since 1996, described herself as a “daughter of immigrants” and after serving roughly a decade as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor, Peterson ran a personal training business for over 20 years.
McConchie, a veteran and Hawthorne Woods resident, is the Senate Republican leader and has a background in public policy, including 12 years with the national anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.
McConchie said in an interview that a police officer told him at a recent meeting that “if somebody pitches a tent in a resident’s backyard, an officer can only give them a ticket but can’t remove them from the premises.”
A task force set up by the Illinois Supreme Court to prepare the court system for the law’s implementation countered similar claims by police and Republican lawmakers about trespassing, saying officers can remove a person from a location before citing them and people can be detained for all Class A trespassing misdemeanors.
McConchie said he has heard from constituents that they are afraid to go out or travel to Chicago, citing concerns about the ability of law enforcement to apprehend criminals.
Peterson, however, said she supports the SAFE-T Act. She accused Illinois Republicans of fear-mongering and called lawsuits on the elimination of cash bail – like the one filed by McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally – “frivolous.”
The goal of reforming pretrial release practices is about fairness, Peterson said. The determining factor in whether someone charged with a crime should be released is whether they are a danger to the community, not whether they have enough money to pay bail, Peterson said.
Peterson also highlighted her support for police on her website, saying they should be provided “everything they need to be effective at upholding the law and respected in and responsive to the communities they serve.”