Judicial candidates make their case for public office

SALINE COUNTY - In a public candidate forum at Southeastern Illinois College last week, candidates for office told voters why they believed they should be elected.

The following are excerpts from the remarks made by candidates for two vacancies in the First Judicial Circuit.

Union County State's Attorney Tyler Edmonds, a Democrat, is running against Williamson County attorney Amanda Byassee Gott, a Republican, for one judge's seat.

First Circuit Judge Carey Gill, a Republican, is running against Saline County Assistant State's Attorney Jason Olson, a Democrat, for the second vacancy.

Also, Republican Judge David Overstreet is on the ballot to be retained as a Fifth District appellate judge.

Tyler Edmonds, Democrat

"I am the Union County State's Attorney and I'm running for judge because I believe in public service. As state's attorney, I worked to reform the juvenile justice system and increased funding for probation services in the circuit, including Saline County, that's reduced juvenile incarceration by about 70 percent. I have worked to fight for crime victims' rights. I see every day the impact the court system has on individuals. I also really have worked to deal with the drug epidemic we see every day in southern Illinois and I will continue to do so as judge of the circuit court."

Amanda Byassee Gott, Republican

"I was born and raised in southern Illinois and married Ashley Gott, a Harrisburg Bulldog. I also have some great family connections in Saline County. I'm proud to be a fourth generation small business owner. I believe I have the experience, leadership and service necessary to fulfill this position for southern Illinois. This is my 19th year practicing law in southern Illinois. I started out representing indigent people needing legal assistance. In 2016, I received the pro bono service award. I'm court-approved to be a mediator for this circuit. I'm also past president of the Williamson County Bar Association, a First Baptist Church member where I'm a choir member and soloist, and a past president of the Marion Rotary Club and an active member."

Carey Gill, Republican

"I'm a circuit judge primarily in Williamson County, but I come to Saline County when judges have a conflict or a conflict of interest. I was appointed in January 2017 by Justice Karmeier. Before that, I practiced law at Barrett, Twomey, Broom, Hughes & Hoke in Carbondale. Since serving on the bench, I've heard thousands of cases. I've heard some of the worst cases, and a lot of civil cases, real estate cases and workers' comp cases. It's not just about qualifications and leadership, it's also about service. I believe in being fair, impartial and having the right temperament to be a judge. I'm a member of the state bar association, and I've supported educational programs. I'm also involved with our church youth group. I've started a drug intervention court, and will implement a mental health program."

Jason Olson, Democrat

"I'm an assistant state's attorney in Saline County, an attorney from Marion and a Navy veteran. I started my private law practice in June 1997 working civil litigation and criminal cases. I was a Saline County public defender for four years and a Pope County public defender for four years. In 2008 I was appointed assistant state's attorney by the late Mike Henshaw. I've tried over 40 cases to a jury verdict - first-degree murder down to simple battery. I've spent the last 21½ years in the courtroom learning from the best judges and prosecutors. I've been involved with the soccer association where I've coached, and I've umpired softball and baseball. I'm a member of the Unit 2 Board Foundation providing grants to teachers in our district. I'm a lifelong Marion resident. If elected, we will have a drug court in the First Circuit. We should have had one a long time ago. We need a veterans court. As a veteran, I'm very concerned with that. What we also need is a mental health court. We're cutting out 30 percent of the population right now. If elected, I will work for these specialized courts. We will have them in place."

Part 3 of candidate coverage continues in Wednesday's paper, with remarks from Saline County Board and Saline County candidates.