Note to readers: This is an endorsement of a candidate in the Democratic primary, written by the Shaw Media Editorial Board. It is an institutional opinion piece, not a news story.
In a choice between two experienced, confident and capable candidates, decisions are made on the margins. In the La Salle County state's attorney Democratic primary, Todd Martin is the better candidate.
Both candidates, Martin, of Mendota, and Peru’s Brian Vescogni, are veteran lawyers with resumes that would make them suitable choices to challenge Republican incumbent Karen Donnelly.
But when it comes down to experience, Martin has more and a wider variety than Vescogni.
Martin and Vescogni sat for separate Shaw Media interviews in February and a joint appearance with The Times and NewsTribune editorial board members last week. We encourage readers to visit the newspaper’s website to view video of the editorial board session to hear the candidates in their own words and get a sense for their demeanor and approach to public life.
Primary voters face two overlapping questions: who is the best person to lead the state’s attorney’s office, and who is the best candidate to defeat the incumbent? While we believe Democrats could feel comfortable with either candidate taking the reins, we think one man has a slight edge in terms of running the most effective campaign.
First, the similarities: Martin and Vescogni agreed voters want a state’s attorney’s office that makes prudent decisions in pursuing prosecution and maximizing the department’s limited resources at a time when the county is under increasing pressure to streamline budgets. That sense of fiscal responsibility should play well in a general election campaign.
Likewise, both men have a lot of experience in the courtroom, as well as with the administrative side of the job and seem prepared to face questions about how they would lead in a new way should voters grant them the opportunity.
Martin has worked as a prosecutor in every division of the state’s attorney’s office and has served in private practice, including successfully defending against the incumbent, Republican Karen Donnelly.
That record reveals a beneficial versatility that should position Martin as well suited to make job assignments and critical administrative decisions.
Vescogni has worked under four different state’s attorney administrations, which points to his adaptability and a willingness to put primary focus on the people’s business regardless of partisanship that unfortunately affects an arguably apolitical task.
Both candidates spoke about a desire to repair relationships with the county’s various law enforcement agencies, and while it remains to be seen how that issue might play out in a general election campaign, we are comforted in seeing both men speak to the reality that the office can’t be an island, that the administration of criminal justice is a complicated machine with many moving parts.
Ultimately, as Democrats consider who they want as their standard-bearer for the next seven months, and then the following four years, we think Martin is the stronger of the two candidates. Although Martin is endorsed by Brian Towne, the most recent Democrat to hold the office he seeks, Martin also has no connection to the controversial State’s Attorney Felony Enforcement Unit, which exposed the county to expensive litigation and raised viable questions about the power of the office.
While SAFE was in operation, Vescogni was assigned to the office’s felony narcotics division, meaning he prosecuted and negotiated many cases that stemmed from SAFE arrests. That experience is certainly useful from a practical standpoint, but it also gives Republicans a likely easy talking point to argue a Vescogni tenure would only revisit the sins of the past.
Martin’s resume contains a breadth of experience that slightly sets him apart from Vescogni while presenting general election voters a clean choice between two approaches to running the state’s attorney’s office going forward.
We endorse Todd Martin.