Bates, Helland compete for Grundy County state’s attorney
By Sarwat S. Ahmad Correspondent November 3, 2012 10:50PM
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:21AM
The Grundy County state’s attorney race will come down to who voters decide has the most experience for the job.
Incumbent Democrat Johnathan Bates, who will face Republican Jason Helland, a prosecutor in the Kankakee County state’s attorney’s office, has only been on the job since March 2011.
Bates, a lifelong Morris resident, was appointed by the Grundy County Board to fill the unexpired term of Sheldon Sobol. Sobol resigned to fill the vacated associate judge seat of Lance Peterson, the county’s new second circuit judge.
Bates’ appointment was questioned by many Republicans on the county board, regarding his experience as well as a possible conflict of interest during trials because Judge Peterson is his first cousin. Five of the county board’s 11 Republicans voted against his appointment. Chairman Ron Severson, however, backed his nomination.
Before his appointment, Bates was a partner in the law offices of Belt, Bates and Associates in Morris. During his 11 years of private practice, he practiced in the areas of municipal law, personal injury, workers compensation, criminal and real estate law. Bates also served as counsel or assistant counsel for numerous villages and municipalities in Grundy County.
Bates also was sworn as a special assistant state’s attorney for the state’s attorney’s office to prosecute certain cases.
“From the day that I became the Grundy County state’s attorney and every day moving forward, I understand the duties of my job and what the Grundy County state’s attorney’s office must do for the people of Grundy County,” Bates said.
According to Bates, the state’s attorney’s office must focus on civil as well as criminal cases and that he has had extensive experience in both especially in his last year and a half as the state’s attorney.
Bates plans to continue to strengthen alternative court programs already in place such as the Juvenile Diversion Program, the Grundy County Drug Court, and the Domestic Violence Diversion Program. These alternative rehabilitation programs are supported by statistical data and have been successful in the county, while also lightening the load on the judicial system and saving tax dollars, Bates said.
Helland, a resident of Mazon, has worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Kankakee County for more than eight years — his first job out of law school. During that time he has practiced in the juvenile, traffic, criminal and mental health divisions.
According to Helland, he has more experience with jury trials than Bates. “I have tried 89 jury trials while John Bates has had not had many since he took office,” Helland said.
Helland also noted that Morris Police Union President Curt Kneller has also publicly endorsed him for the position. “According to the Morris police union, the state’s attorney’s office has declined to prosecute a lot of cases that should be prosecuted,” he said.
Helland also supports alternative court programs.
“It should be our goal not to imprison first time non-violent offenders if alternate programs and or treatments exist,” he said. Furthermore, if elected, one of his main focuses will be to establish a veteran’s court, which has been recognized by the state, and focuses on helping veterans receive treatment for mental health problems instead of going to prison, Helland said.
“Too many people I’ve talked to are unhappy with the appointment of John Bates, with little or no prosecutorial experience. The voters of Grundy County are tired of the good old boys’ club in the county,” he said.
Candidates in other races in Grundy County:
Grundy County Board District 1
(vote for six)
Kenneth A. Iverson (D), incumbent
Erik C. Olson (D)
Marcia G. Wolter (D)
Thomas Haas Jr. (D)
John B. Roth (R), incumbent
Vicki Geiger, (R)
David Allen Welter (R), incumbent
Mildred (Weitz) Dyer (R), incumbent
Curt D. Mercadante (R)
John M. Almer (R), incumbent
Grundy County Board District 2
(vote for six)
Michael J. Clemmons (D)
Yolanda L. Wilhelm (D)
Rudy Martin, Jr. (D)
Michael J. Hazel (D)
Warren Kronberger (D)
Chris Balkema (R), incumbent
Ron Severson (R), incumbent
John Galloway (R), incumbent
Eric Rasmusson (R), incumbent
Debra Warning (R)
Teryl J. Lundeen (R)
Grundy County Board District 3
(vote for six)
Richard P. Joyce (D), incumbent
Ann Gill (D), incumbent
Francis E. (Frank) Halpin Jr. (D), incumbent
Robert T. (Tom) Poole (D), incumbent
James F. Ryan (D)
Timothy James Bradley (D)
Dave Boggs (R), incumbent
Harold Vota (R)
Clark D. Barkley (R)
Phyliss G. Dralle (D)
John W. Callahan (R), incumbent