Candidates in three local races lay out positions at forum

Candidates in three local races lay out positions at forum

CHAMPAIGN — Two Republicans seeking the sheriff's badge in Champaign County both favor transitioning from two jail facilities to a single one.

Champaign County Chief Deputy Allen Jones of Rantoul said he supports closing the downtown jail, moving the sheriff's office and expanding the satellite jail to accommodate all jail beds.

"The sheriff will need to work with the county board, and funding is going to be limited," Jones said. "We will work with the policy board to complete that task."

Greg Worrell of Thomasboro, a security officer at Lincoln's Challenge Academy and a Fisher police officer, said he favors consolidating all jail structures under a single location.

"We need to collate everything into one location," he said.

Jones and Worrell offered their views Monday night in the Champaign City Building at a forum co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the NAACP and The News-Gazette.

Incumbent Sheriff Dan Walsh is not seeking re-election.

Worrell asked Democrats to consider crossing over during the primary election and selecting a Republican ballot to vote for him.

"I encourage you to cross over to the Republican side and place your vote for Greg Worrell," he said.

Jones said he has "zero concerns" about the state's conceal-carry law.

"I fully support it," he said.

Worrell said he also supports conceal carry, "But it is important that people are properly trained," he added.

Worrell said he would contact immigration officials if a person living in the United States illegally were admitted to the county jail.

"I would like to see if the federal government will assist us for the cost to house them and detain them," Worrell said.

Jones said, outside receiving a warrant for someone living here illegally, his office would not have information about a person's status.

"We are not able to honor simple ICE detainer requests issued by agents," Jones said.

Champaign County clerk

Earlier in the evening, two Republicans told the audience why they want to be the next Champaign County clerk.

Matt Grandone of Urbana, director of training at the county clerk's office, said his three-and-a-half years of experience working for the office will make him an effective leader.

"I spent almost the last four years preparing for this job," he said.

Champaign County Board member Jon Rector of Champaign, an implementation specialist at Benefit Planning Consultants, said he wants to bring the same leadership skills he has developed over the years to the office.

The winner will succeed Gordy Hulten, who is running for county executive.

Grandone said he will work with election judges "to make sure elections are run fairly, smoothly and efficiently."

He said the office excels in customer service, something he said he wants to continue to provide.

"The real-world experience is what matters," Grandone said.

Rector said he brings "decades of experience in the private sector and in the public sector."

"I'll take the same leadership skills that I have employed in various organizations in our community and apply them to the county clerk's office," he said.

Grandone said he voted in the 2017 Democratic mayoral primary in Urbana.

"It was time for a change in Urbana," he said. "At some point, the only way to make a change is to pull that ballot."

Rector said he has never voted in a Democratic primary.

104th Illinois House District

The final debate of the evening was to feature two Democrats running for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 104th District, which includes portions of Champaign and Vermilion counties: Cynthia "Cindy" Cunningham of rural Royal and Frank McCullough of Danville.

McCullough did not show up for the forum, so Cunningham gave a short speech instead.

She said "hyper-partisanship" has led to a lack of compromise in state government.

"I am running for state representative because of all the trouble we have had the last two-and-a-half, three years," she said.

Cunningham said the budget impasse impacted services to senior citizens in the community because those services were not covered under the Medicaid consent decrees.

After getting involved lobbying to restore those services, she decided to run for office to make an impact.

"It seems ridiculous to me to spend all that time just to do what's right," she said. "I got used to doing it, and I want to continue to do what's right."

Cunningham said she is concerned over the economy in her district.

"Rantoul and Danville, in particular, are turning into ghost towns over the last several years," she said. "And nobody is talking about that."

Voters will make their decisions in the primary election on March 20.

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