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Winnebago County State’s Attorney candidates discuss candidacy, curbing violence during forum

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The two candidates vying to be the next state's attorney in Winnebago County had a chance to make their case on Tuesday during a forum.

The forum was the first of three forums being held by 13 WREX throughout the month of October.

Democrat Paul Carpenter and Republican J. Hanley joined 13 News Anchors Kristin Crowley and James Stratton on the stage at the Nordlof Center.

Several topics were discussed during the forum, but one of the big topics was how to curb violent crime in Winnebago County.

Both candidates said it is a big part of their candidacy, with Hanley wanting to create a gun court and continue a program called "Focus Deterrence," using a federal grant to prosecute the worst criminals.

Both also agreed that the focus needs to be on the youth.

"When we see these cases come in, we need to do a better job of working with these children at the time to make sure they're getting the resources they need the counseling they need to send them on the right path to avoid the gang road the violence road," said Carpenter.

"Lastly an unrelenting focus on our children and our youth. WE have to intervene as early and holistically as possible so our children don't pick up guns in the first place. One of the frustrating about the violence and particularly the shootings in our community is that its perpetrated by our children," said Hanley.

We also asked the candidates what they feel is the biggest problem in the State's Attorney's office. Here's what both candidates said:

"I think the people of Winnebago County have lost some faith in the office. The lack of transparency, certain decisions, seemingly arbitrary decisions, the lack of communication with mayors, law enforcement and I think there's an external trust that needs to be gained from the community," said Hanley.

"In Winnebago County, a starting assistant state's attorney gets paid $45,000 a year. Contrast that with a starting corrections officer that gets paid $49,000 a year. The prosecutor has seven years of college and law school. The corrections officer, they're doing great work and I respect them a great deal, but they require high school diploma and to be 21 years old. So we need to make sure we're prioritizing recruiting prosecutors," said Carpenter.

Tuesday night's forum was the first of three forums being held by 13 WREX in October.

Next week, on Oct. 13, 13 WREX will host a forum with candidates for state representative in the 68th District. Incumbent Republican Rep. John Cabello finds a challenger in attorney and small business owner Dave Vella.

And the week before the election, on Oct. 27, 13 WREX will host its final forum with candidates for Winnebago County Chairman. Democrat and current board member Bert Gurl and Republican Ald. Joe Chiarelli are running against each other.

All of the forums will be streamed at and on the 13 WREX Facebook page.

For more election coverage, CLICK HERE.

You can watch Tuesday night's full forum below.

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Andrew Carrigan

Andy Carrigan is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team as a photographer in 2016 after graduating from Northern Illinois University. He also been a producer and Assignment Editor at the station.

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