EDWARDSVILLE - Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons faces a challenge for a position he has held for nearly a decade, and it's likely to be a one time military prosecutor and son of one of the most high profile politicians in the area.
Gibbons, a Democrat who was first appointed the post in 2010 before being elected twice by the county's voters, will face attorney Tom Haine if neither have a primary challenge, or either overcome one.
Haine, the son of former long time State Sen. William Haine, and one time state's attorney for the county, announced his candidacy for the key post in October. He will stand as a Republican.
Haine and Gibbons
The two candidates answered questions on why one should be retained and what the challenger believes he will bring to the role.
"I decided that with my experience as a military prosecutor, and the leadership I learned in the Army, I could do my part to promote the active, energetic, tough, justice system that I saw my dad lead when he was State's Attorney," Haine, a former captain in the JAG corp and father of three from Alton, says.
He adds, "I believe we need a new generation of conservative leaders in Madison County, who can approach old problems with new ideas. That's why I'm running."
Haine promises to carry out a "top-down review" of the office to "make sure the office is fully modernized, professional, and spending every dollar wisely, where it can most impact the safety of our communities and justice for victims of crimes."
Specifically, Haine said he has questions on plea bargaining and plans to compare sentencing in Madison County to other jurisdictions to "make sure it is appropriately tough."
"I will make sure we are never reluctant to go to trial when necessary," Haine promises. "And I will make absolutely sure we close the door on the worst offenders, and put them in jail for a very long time."
He also said outreach to veterans will be a priority given many coming home from combat are vulnerable to the ravages of mental health and drug addiction.
Gibbons, a prosecutor in the state's attorney office prior to his elevation to the top role, confirmed he will be seeking re-election to the position, and cites his record chasing down and imprisoning violent crimes as one of the reasons he expects the voters to back him once again.
"Our partnerships with community members, local leaders and with our outstanding local law enforcement have made a tremendous difference in our ability to secure justice," Gibbons told the Record.
"I have been putting criminals behind bars for almost twenty years and the Citizens of Madison County have seen the positive results of our fight to give violent criminals a heavy dose of Madison County Justice. Citizens know that I will always fight for their rights.
He points to the creation of the Children’s Justice Division as one of the key positives from his tenure, which has "resulted in an extraordinary increase in convictions and the length of prison sentences in cases of child sexual assault."
Similarly, the Violent Crimes Unit (VCU), a specialized team that stays with a case from beginning to end, has proved a huge success, Gibbons says.
Among the outstanding cases, and those that strike closest to home, are those involving children, Gibbons says, adding that a guilty verdict secured in 2014 for the murder of a little boy, his mother and her unborn child is one he will always remember.
"The case had gone cold for several years, but our VCU never gave up," he explains.
On his likely opponent, Gibbons says he knows very little about him, adding that Haine was a judicial clerk for a period but "he’s only lived back in the area for a couple years and hasn’t been active in the community.
"As far as his abilities as a lawyer, it’s hard to tell," Gibbons added, "I don’t think he’s ever stepped foot into the Madison County criminal courts, so he remains untested."
For Haine, whose father always ran as a Democrat, the Republican Party was a better fit for his principles.
He adds, "I have already heard from many Democrats who are supporting me, and I am very very grateful! But Democrat or Republican, our campaign will be about non-partisan issues."