Hopefuls keep drilling each other

By Nina Gougis

As Election Day nears, races generally become more heated, but opponents running for DeKalb County state’s attorney both say their campaign is exceptionally so.

While many differences on issues exist between the two, both Democrat incumbent Ron Matekaitis and Republican challenger Clay Campbell agree the race is centered more on the individual traits than on campaign issues.

The most noticeable difference between the NIU alumni is what functions they plan to perform as state’s attorney.

Campbell continually criticized Matekaitis’ lack of personal involvement in prosecuting felony cases during their debate Thursday at the NIU College of Law.

“I decided to run for state’s attorney because I had this old fashioned idea that state’s attorneys should primarily be trial lawyers,” Campbell said.

Matekaitis said it is the state’s attorney’s responsibility to fulfill certain administrative functions, including taking on anything their staff cannot handle.

The state’s attorney’s office, he said, dealt with a record 2,000 misdemeanor cases. It is his responsibility to help ease that burden, he said.

A question also surfaced as to whether Campbell’s experience as a defense attorney could help him as a prosecuting state’s attorney.

Matekaitis said considerable differences exist between defense and prosecuting attorneys that affect the strategies they use in the courtroom.

“We’re wired differently – prosecutors and defense attorneys,” Matekaitis said.

Experience as a defense attorney could be helpful, Campbell argued, because it can help him deal with other defense attorneys and make him a more efficient prosecutor.

One fellow attorney agrees with Campbell.

Scott Tearched, a junior political science major, said he was undecided on whom to vote for, but said the race has been interesting and expects a close election Nov. 2.

Aside from heated arguments, the debate was meant to clarify the candidates’ stances.

Bill Kinney, a law student who helped organize the debate, said having the debate helps students realize the importance of the state’s attorney’s role.

“I think it’s been a pretty vocal and active campaign so far,” Kinney said. “The incumbent usually has the advantage, which is probably the case here, but it should be a pretty close race.”


Having NIU law students perform

attorney responsibilities in

misdemeanor cases:

Campbell: Wants to work with NIU faculty to let law students with proper training work on misdemeanor cases to help ease burden of misdemeanor cases.

Matekaitis: Is uncomfortable in letting students carry on a lawyers’ functions during misdemeanor trials but does hire students as interns.

Death penalty:

Campbell: Agrees to death penalty only in extreme cases but is concerned there is more effort in prosecuting the accused than finding out if they committed the crimes.

Matekaitis: Agrees to death penalty because of recent reforms requiring videotaped statements and capital-certified bar members on capital cases.

Drug court:

Campbell: Says current system does little to help treat drug addicts. Wants more treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

Matekaitis: Should be more accountability and punishment when drug and alcohol use leads to violent actions. Also wants more inpatient treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

Jail referendum:

Campbell: Did not support referendum. Wants to fund more treatment programs without giving money to expand the jail.

Matekaitis: Supported jail referendum because he said it would help ease burden on jail system and make it easier to support drug treatment programs.