The Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general told voters in Crystal Lake on Wednesday that he views his role, now and moving forward, as protecting the state’s constitution from Democratic overreach, starting with a repeal of the SAFE-T Act.
Thomas DeVore, a southern Illinois attorney, spoke at the Around the Clock Restaurant on Route 14 to criticize the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, also known as the SAFE-T Act, which he maintains is both unconstitutional and beyond saving via future legislative changes.
DeVore, like other GOP candidates, focused on the portion of the bill that eliminates cash bail for pretrial defendants, set to go into effect Jan. 1.
DeVore is running against incumbent Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul. The two debated Tuesday evening over Zoom. During that debate, DeVore said he would not defend the SAFE-T Act in court if he became the next attorney general.
DeVore took credit Wednesday for helping to create a meme campaign last month that falsely claimed judges would not be able to detain those accused of crimes such as second-degree murder and kidnapping. Overall, DeVore tried to present himself as a champion of voters and someone who would hold himself to accountable to Illinoisans and the state constitution, not politicians in Springfield.
“Democrats aren’t going to solve issues,” DeVore said. “Republicans aren’t going to solve issues, either. The only people who can solve issues are people.”
Supporters of the SAFE-T Act have insisted that the law provides plenty of leeway for judges to detain any criminal deemed a flight risk or a threat to the community. However, in recent weeks, Illinois Democrats have been more amenable to reviewing the bill’s language and adjusting the bill to provide clarification.
In addition to DeVore, other McHenry County politicians and public figures in attendance included Cary Mayor Mark Kownick, Cary Police Chief Patrick Finlon, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, former McHenry County sheriff candidate Tony Colatorti and McHenry Board member Jeff Thorsen.
Kenneally is one of dozens of state’s attorneys who have filed lawsuits against the SAFE-T Act in recent weeks.
DeVore criticized both the content of the SAFE-T Act and the manner in which the legislation was passed.
“They took a bill that already went partly through the legislative process, gutted it, and replaced it with something completely different,” DeVore said, noting that the final draft was hundreds of pages long and was passed in the state Senate in the middle of the night.
“(State Sen.) Elgie Sims turned a seven-page, single-issue bill on voting rights into a 700-page bill,” DeVore said.
DeVore defended the concept of cash bail and argued the SAFE-T Act provided no replacement incentive for those accused to attend their trials and does not address for inherent racial biases.
“This bill does not treat people in different economic situations more equitably,” DeVore said, challenging a main contention of the SAFE-T Act’s proponents. “We won’t necessarily treat people fairer based on their income; when a rich and poor guy commit the same crime, a judge can still let the rich guy go and detain the poor guy. I’m not saying that is going to happen. But it might happen.”
Kenneally also denounced the SAFE-T Act.
“We do not have a broken criminal justice system,” Kenneally said. “We never did have a broken criminal justice system. We have the greatest criminal justice system in the world. It was created by people a lot smarter than the philosopher kings down in Springfield.”
State’s attorneys involved in SAFE-T Act lawsuits hope to get their case heard before a trial judge by December, so a ruling on the law’s constitutionality can be made before January, Kenneally said.
DeVore rose to notoriety statewide for fighting against masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several attendees at the presentation said their support for DeVore dated back to the high-profile lawsuits he filed during the time.
“He was driven to save our kids,” said Cindy Ershen, a Palatine resident who was there to support DeVore. “He’s somebody who will abide by the oath he takes. I believe in everything he’s doing.”
“He knows the law,” Weinhammer said of DeVore. “He fights for the constitution. He’s going to let the people decide if they want a mask or a vaccine.”
DeVore is the second conservative candidate in three weeks to visit Around the Clock, following gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey’s appearance last month. Campaign volunteer Brett Corrigan said DeVore’s campaign team had chosen Around the Clock for a visit because Corrigan said they felt the restaurant was friendlier toward conservative candidates than some other venues.
Diner co-owner Steve Theofanous, whose family has owned the restaurant for 47 years, said candidates coming to speak was “a brand new thing” and Around the Clock’s doors were open to any candidate who wanted to speak.
“We’d love to have Mr. Pritzker or Mr. Raoul come tell us about their policies,” Theofanous said. “We’re lucky in this community we don’t have high crime, but we do care about safe communities, and we want to make sure they stay safe.”