Madison County state's attorney race heats up with formal complaint, personal attacks

With less than two weeks left until the election, personal attacks and a formal complaint have made their way into the race for Madison County state’s attorney.

State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, a Democrat appointed to the position in 2010, filed a complaint last week with the Illinois State Board of Elections accusing his opponent, Amy Sholar, of failing to disclose all of her campaign committee’s contributions and expenditures.

Sholar said her committee “inadvertently omitted” some in-kind contributions on its quarterly report and didn’t include certain expenditures because they weren’t paid from the campaign as reimbursable expenses until the reporting period ended late last month.

Her committee, she said, discovered the issue before Gibbons lodged the complaint and filed an amendment to its quarterly report. The amendment shows that her committee spent about $10,000 more than it initially reported, the majority of which paid for a television commercial.

“It’s really making a mountain out of a mole hill,” Sholar said of Gibbons’ complaint.

Questioning Sholar’s explanation, Gibbons said there are rules for a reason and those governing disclosure are in place to provide much-needed transparency.

“How do you overlook the single biggest expenditure of your whole campaign?” Gibbons said.

Gibbons’ complaint, however, only marks the latest “he said, she said” situation in the race.

Both candidates have taken to their campaign’s Facebook pages and websites to take jabs at each other in the past few months.

“The campaign has become ugly,” Sholar said.

Sholar, a Godfrey resident who focuses her law practice on criminal and family matters, said the ugliness of the campaign began when Gibbons started making personal attacks against her on a website paid for by his campaign committee.

The website claims that “Before Amy Sholar ran for state’s attorney, she ran from the law” and goes on to explain that Sholar was involved in a hit-and-run car accident in the early morning hours of Feb. 2, 2001.

Sholar, however, said calling the incident a hit-and-run is “not true.” She said it was a “minor traffic incident” in which she left her car to go get help after her car got stuck in the mud.

Gibbons said characterizing it as a minor incident is “frightening” and that the incident, as well as her response to it, makes him question how the public would be able to trust a state’s attorney who doesn’t follow the law.

His knowledge of the 2001 incident came from the facts of a police report, Gibbons said, adding that he has a “much higher standard” when it comes to making allegations than his opponent.

For instance, he said, Sholar “took some event with no direct relation to make something up.” He said she “used the tragic deaths of two kids to blame me somehow.”

He is referring to a video posted on her campaign’s Facebook page that discusses Yokeia Smith, a woman who killed her two children after being released from jail on a plea deal. The video poses the question: “Is he a criminal best’s friend?”

Sholar said “this terrible crime could have been avoided if Mr. Gibbons had his eye on his office rather than an eye on the coming election.”

She also said that while she has focused her comments about Gibbons on his record, he is making personal attacks, including bringing up her 2004 bankruptcy.

Gibbons said he brought that up because it is important for a state’s attorney to be able to manage the finances of the office, which oversees about $3 million in taxpayer money.

Sholar said she filed for bankruptcy following her divorce, saying she is “not the only person to have gone through that.”

Aside from the personal attacks and formal complaint, both candidates said their respective campaigns are strong going into the final weeks leading up to next month’s election.

Gibbons said he has been utilizing direct mail to get his message out to the voters and will also be airing television and radio commercials.

He touts his experience in the prosecutor’s office as one of the main reasons voters should choose him, noting that Sholar has dedicated her career to representing criminals. He also said since taking office, the conviction rate for felons is the highest ever recorded by the office.

Sholar said on top of her experience as a criminal defense attorney, she has handled family and juvenile matters and served as a special public defender, a combination that makes her a well-rounded candidate.

If she were elected state’s attorney, Sholar said she intends to try more cases, something she contends Gibbons’ office does not do enough of right now. She also said she would devote more resources to the divisions that deal with juvenile abuse and child support.

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