Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2012, 10:55 pm

McGehee, Wozniak spar at NCAAP forum

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By Stephen Elliott,

ROCK ISLAND -- Experience, integrity and politics were frequent terms heard Tuesday night in a debate between the two men who want to be Rock Island County's next state's attorney.

Republican candidate Jim Wozniak and Democratic candidate John McGehee spoke at a candidate's forum sponsored bythe Rock Island County NAACP at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Rock Island.

StateRep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, also was on hand, although his challenger, Republican Neil Anderson, canceled Tuesday morning, saying he had a work commitment with the Moline Fire Department.

Mr. McGehee, 51, of Moline, said he wanted to rise above politics as the county's next state's attorney. But Mr. Wozniak, 33, of East Moline, saidMr. McGehee doesn't understand the office if he believes politics doesn't play a role.

"If my opponent doesn't think politics plays a role in the state's attorney's office, he is about to be swallowed up if he's elected, consumed by the politics of this county," Mr. Wozniak said.

"Everything in this world is politics," he said."You can't go two steps without talking to someone who says 'corruption,' who says 'nepotism.' You have to have someone who is willing to lead."

Mr. McGehee said, if Mr. Wozniak knows of a corrupt official, he should do something about it.

"You have an obligation to call the state police to have them investigated," he said."I'm a law-and-order kind of person. I think the state's attorney's job is to prosecute criminals and to represent the county in civil matters.

"Politics is a part of the process of getting elected," he said. "I believe I have risen above that in this race. I talk about experience and what I can do for the office."

Mr. Wozniak said that, as assistant Rock Island County state's attorney since April 2011, he's prosecuted thousands of cases. Mr. McGehee said he began his law practice in 1989, trying cases when Mr. Wozniak was in the fifth grade.

"My opponent has been practicing longer than I have," Mr. Wozniak said. "He's older, too.

"That's one of the key differences," he said. "I'm not part of the politics as usual of Rock Island County. It's a party of 'me' in control in Rock Island County."

Mr. Wozniak did see similarities with his opponent.

"I'm a Republican," he said. "My opponent ran for Republican judge and he lost, and he switched to the Democratic party."

Mr. McGehee said he wants to increase what the public knows about what is happening in the state's attorney's office and the county. He said he would implement an ethics policy if elected.

Both candidates said they want to boost morale in the office and restore the public's confidence since the resignation of former State's Attorney Jeff Terronez in April 2011. Mr. Terronez pleaded guilty to one count of providing alcohol to a minor.

State Rep. Verschoore also took questions Tuesday night, including those on teachers and collective bargaining. He saidhe didn't blame teachers for the state's financial woes, and if districts must make cuts, they should start at the top with administrative jobs.

He also said collective bargaining was essential to American workers and, without it, the country would go back to child labor and unsafe labor practices.

He said his experience is an advantage to his constituents in the 72nd District.

"I've been in business and in labor," said the retired Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 business manager. "I have good all-around ideas on what it takes to make things work in this area.

"I've got a lot of experience under my belt," he said."I think I have the credentials to get things done in Springfield."