3 state’s attorney candidates interview with McLean County Board members
McLean County Board members heard Monday from three candidates hoping to become the county's next top prosecutor.
The candidates, who interviewed with the board’s executive committee, have filed to replace Don Knapp, who will be sworn in as a circuit judge on Friday.
Erika Reynolds is one of two internal candidates. She heads the state's attorney's crimes against children division. On Monday, Reynolds said a major focus for the next state's attorney will be the new criminal justice reform law that takes effect next year.
“It will take a combination of significant institutional knowledge, strong leadership skills and trust from those within the state’s attorney’s office to lead the team through these unprecedented times,” she said.
The Safe-T Act, which will take effect Jan. 1, will eliminate cash bail among a series of other reforms.
Aaron Hornsby, the second candidate to interview with the committee, is an assistant state's attorney in McLean County. He screens cases for possible charges and proposes bail amounts. Hornsby said he has shown discretion in limiting bail.
“The non-violent offenders, at my request, have been released without the requirement of a cash bail,” he said. He is the only candidate who said for certain he would not run for state's attorney in two years if he is not chosen.
The only external candidate is Erik Gibson, a prosecutor in the Woodford County State's Attorney's Office. Gibson said he anticipates Safe-T Act will be a problem for the next state's attorney.
“I think we are going to see our law enforcement really tested with fleeing and looting and different things like that, and a lot of recidivism in a short amount of time,” Gibson said.
Reynolds said she lacked “significant” civil court experience, saying she would rely on current staff within the office’s civil division and look to “pick up on the information” over time.
Hornsby said he also lacks civil experience, but would rely on the “wealth of knowledge” of the office’s current lead attorney in the civil division, Chris Spanos.
Gibson, who ran unsuccessfully for state’s attorney in Knox County in 2012, referenced his time as a civil litigator in Peoria between prosecutor jobs. “I feel like that rounded me out a little more as an attorney,” he said.
County board chair John McIntyre will recommend a candidate for the full board to consider on Thursday. He also met with each of the candidates privately.
“One thing that I’m looking for is someone who can step in and do the job like Don Knapp did, and also someone who is available,” McIntyre said. “Time is important to all of us, but this position is almost like you are married to your job.”
The appointment will be for just over two years — until the November 2024 election.
Executive committee member Chuck Erickson asked what happens if the vote ends in a tie. Spanos said that would be a bad idea.
“(My) advice is don’t tie,” Spanos replied. “It’s not like you can name an interim state’s attorney. You certainly don’t want the state’s attorney's office to go vacant for any extended period of time,” he said.
The county board has 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Spanos said the board should not leave Thursday night's meeting until they have chosen a new state's attorney.