Fourth of four installments from the recent candidate forum at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg.
SALINE COUNTY -- Excerpts from remarks by Saline County officeholder candidates and those for the 118th Legislative District and the 59th Senate District. Candidates had three minutes to speak; those representing a candidate had two minutes.
Saline County State's Attorney
Molly Wilson Kasiar, Republican: "I was born and raised in Harrisburg. My parents are Ray and Joy Wilson of Harrisburg. I'm a proud graduate of SIC and University of Illinois. I went to law school at SIUC on a scholarship and graduated with honors. After I graduated, I went to work for a law firm here in southern Illinois. Soon after, I was appointed an assistant attorney general, where I handled hundreds of cases on behalf of the state of Illinois. While still serving as assistant attorney general, I joined the faculty at SIU law school as a visiting assistant professor. In 2013, I was appointed an arbitrator for the Illinois Worker's Compensation Commission. In that capacity, I made decisions in hundreds of cases. I was appointed to that position by a Democratic governor and I was reappointed by a Republican governor."
Jayson Clark, Democrat: "I've been state's attorney for about a year and a half. I was appointed after my friend Mike Henshaw passed away ... appointed by a unanimous vote of Republicans and Democrats. Stepping into Mike's shoes was a big job, and no one can fill his shoes. By the time I became state's attorney, I already had years as a prosecutor. That's what I am, a prosecutor. I'm the only person in this race who's a prosecutor. I'm running for this office and asking for your vote because I believe the state's attorney needs to be a prosecutor. I believe he needs to be someone who's prosecuted trials, prosecuted jury trials and sent dangerous people to prison. I've done that for years. I want to continue to do that. I was born and raised in Eldorado, off of College Road, just up the road here."
Saline County Treasurer
Jeff Murrie, Republican: "I was appointed to fill Danny Ragan's term back in August of 2016. I was on the county board. I got elected in November 2012 and I served until August 2016. So I've seen it from a board member's point of view and an officeholder's point of view. I want to brag on my office a little bit. I've got some really good workers in there. My workers have inherited me. The board back in February of this year voted to add some more duties to my office -- payroll, IMRF and health insurance. Without any help from anyone, my office has turned that around. We found some errors, corrected them, moved on and saved the county quite a bit of money right there. That's an extra duty that we took on and actually enjoyed it. When I took over for Danny Ragan, he left me some notes. And every day I go in there, I find a note. One that really sticks out said "Whoever takes this job, I hope they take it seriously." And I do. Our biggest problem in revenue. Our revenue is just not coming in. I think we've got a little bit of a handle on our expenditures. But our revenue has got to come in. We can cut our expenditures all we want, but if our revenue is not coming in, we're still in the same boat."
Danny Gibbs, Democrat: Was not present.
Saline County Clerk and Recorder
Julie Dunn, Democrat: Once elected, I will be able to assume my duties from Day One, and will not require any special training for this job because I have 28 years of experience in that office. During my 28 years working, I worked in every department and crafted many of the procedures used in those departments. As Saline County clerk, I will work hand-in-hand with other officeholders and the Saline County Board to iron out details of the county's annual operating budget. During this campaign, I have stressed to the board the need to computerize all records. As county clerk, I will computerize all records, cloud storage to protect our records from loss, and make cybersecurity a high priority. Much of this modernization will be done in-house and will cost Saline County citizens little to no money. Making these improvements will protect our vital information for future generations. I will start to restore the integrity and respect to the Saline County Clerk and Recorder's office."
Roger Craig, Republican: Was not present.
Saline County Sheriff
J. "Whipper" Johnson, Republican: "I'm from Harrisburg, I grew up in Harrisburg and I went to Harrisburg High School. I attended and graduated from SIC, then graduated from SIU. Later I went to and graduated from the police academy and also went to Belleville Area College, which is now SWIC, and graduated from the correctional academy. I started in 1992 as a part-time dispatcher for then-Sheriff George Henley. I was transferred to the jail and worked at the jail for a few years. Then I was able to go to the academy and work the roads for a little bit. Then I went to the Eldorado Police Department, where I worked three years before coming back to Harrisburg. Since working in Harrisburg starting in 2001, I've been a patrol officer, I was assigned drug enforcement investigations, I was a patrol sergeant and most recently I was assigned to police chief for two years. That's where my experience comes in for being an administrator for the sheriff's office. I'm the only candidate who has successfully managed a budget of $1 million. I actually came in under budget as Harrisburg chief of police. The reason I want to run for sheriff is because we need a shot in the arm for public safety in Saline County. Our tires are a little bit flat and we need to air them up a little bit. I think I'm the guy who can do it."
Ken Clore, Democrat: "I'm the sheriff of Saline County. Before I tell you why I'm the most qualified candidate for Saline County sheriff, I want to remind us all of the blessing to be here tonight participating in the American election process. America holds elections, and we can either choose to ignore them or participate in them. It's up to us. Our military and our veterans know they are serving the greatest country on earth. As a veteran myself, I do not take this privilege lightly. This is a privilege that serves and protects. I encourage all of you who are here to night, or are listening to this broadcast on WEBQ, to vote on Nov. 6. I now have the privilege of serving as sheriff, and I'm running for election to remain in office. I'm not doing this for personal gain. I'm doing this for the people of Saline County. I've taken the oath of a police officer to protect and serve. I take the oath very seriously. I've been a law enforcement officer in various functions since joining the FBI in 1968. I served not only the FBI, but also the U.S. Army, as a specialist in the Army Intelligence Command. I served the Illinois State Police as an investigations supervisor, and the Saline County Sheriff's Office. I have served as chief deputy of the Saline County Sheriff's Office for eight years. I can manage the budget and work with the county board."
Shawn Turner, write-in (represented by Casey Perkins): "I'm running as a write-in candidate. I'm not supported by the Republican or Democratic party. I'm not supported by any big-money people. However, if elected, I will be indebted to all the citizens of our county and will serve the people of Saline County without regard to your ethnicity, standings, race, creed or religion. I have the training, the education, the ability and the passion to fulfill the duties of this office. I will protect and serve each and every one of you, our taxpayers. I believe in this county and this country. Our children needs to be our main priority. We need to get a grip on the crime in this county once again. I have a plan to battle this. I've also pledged to reduce $20,000 from the sheriff's pay. My choice of chief deputy will also reduce his pay by $10,000. Thank you for your time."
118th state House
Natalie Phelps Finnie, Democrat: "I was born and raised in Eldorado and now I live in Hardin County with my husband of 19 years and our three children. This was an extremely difficult decision to step up and do this. It took about six weeks of gut-wrenching prayer. Two things I want to address right off the bat: No. 1, I am a Phelps. I'm proud of that. I'm not going to shy away from that, and I never will. I'm proud of the service my dad did all those years and then the work my cousin Brandon did. They worked hard for southern Illinois, and I'm proud of that. I hope to be able to fill those shoes half as well. I feel the full weight and responsibility of this job, and I've felt it since I was appointed to it last September. The reason I am doing this is the kids I see in my clinic. I'm a nurse practitioner right down the road in Gallatin County. The kids I see in my clinic are leading horrible lives. I've seen kids whose heads are just covered in head lice and my assistant and I have taken them after school and gone through their hair with our bare hands. That's what you've got to do when children are leading horrible lives. There is so much abuse and neglect. I'm not going to stand up here and say I have all the answers, and anybody who does is either a fool or telling you exactly what you want to hear."
Patrick Windhorst, Republican: "I'm running for state representative because I want to build a brighter future for us here in southern Illinois. I grew up in Metropolis, son of an educator, veteran and union ironworker. I know what our home is going through right now. My wife, Molly, is from McLeansboro. We have two children, ages 8 and 5. Molly is the volunteer executive director of the Massac County Drug Awareness Coalition. She and I are active in our community and our church, where I serve as a Bible class teacher and a deacon. Currently, I'm the state's attorney in Massac County. It's been my honor to serve my community and to work with local law enforcement officers to make our county safer to live in and work. Together, we have reduced the crime rate by 43 percent, and the violent crime rate by 59 percent. I love my job. It's a great job. It's a rewarding job. But I know the obstacles we face here in southern Illinois cannot be solved alone at the local level. I've seen families who have been here for generations moving to other states because they have lower taxes. I've gone door-to-door and talked to people and learned that these problems are all around the region. People are moving to Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, all because they see themselves having a brighter future there. The problems we have didn't start overnight. They've come from years of failed leadership in Springfield."
59th Senate District