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Why I Support Eric Rinehart for Lake County State’s Attorney

by Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins

Thirty years ago my sister, her husband, and their unborn child were murdered in Winnetka, Illinois. That watershed event changed everything about my life, propelling me into a lifetime of advocacy against violence, for criminal justice reform, and for victims’ rights.

I have been literally everywhere that becoming an expert on the criminal justice system would require—prisons and jails, courtrooms and judges’ chambers, prosecutors’ offices and victim advocates’ offices, public defender, clerk, private attorneys, and criminal justice reform advocate meetings. I have worked with the best and the worst that the criminal justice system has to offer, and I have worked effectively within the political system on all of these matters.

And I have accomplished important reforms for Illinois residents, most notably with the passage of Marsy’s Law in 2014, putting forever into the Illinois Constitution enforceable rights for crime victims in criminal justice proceedings in violent crime cases. I care deeply, as a private citizen, about making sure that the State’s Attorneys each county in Illinois elects are people committed to ending violence, protecting public safety, and victims’ rights, and have the skills to do their jobs protecting rights and enforcing the law.

I am, therefore, thrilled to enthusiastically endorse Eric Rinehart for Lake County State’s Attorney. His planned reforms for this important office are well thought-out and promise a much improved quality of life for Lake County residents. After practicing criminal law in Lake County for 17 years, he has the experience, the skills, and the expertise to deliver the strongest functioning Lake County State’s Attorney’s office in decades.

While there are many reasons to vote for him, here is just one story that exemplifies why electing Eric is so important:

A friend of mine was a victim of domestic violence in Lake County – a truly terrifying and life-changing experience for her. As a DV survivor myself, I stood by her side supportively, even attending phone meetings with Assistant State’s Attorneys and victim advocates under the current Lake County State’s Attorney’s office. The current State’s Attorney was handed a virtually airtight case against a truly guilty offender with an articulate and brave victim able to testify against her abuser. And he bungled it. The abuser got off. Further, my friend’s victims’ rights under Marsy’s Law were not enforced by the office charged to protect her. I came to understand at that point the real need to change the leadership in the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office.

I know that other cases like my friend’s are exactly what motivated Eric to run for the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office. When I read Eric Rinehart’s campaign platform, it was as if I had written it myself. Ending domestic violence in Lake County will be a top priority in his administration, to protect victims of domestic abuse and other violent crimes by moving resources from the prosecution of nonviolent crimes and civil forfeiture litigation to the prosecution of violent offenses, to establish a Victims’ Advisory Panel, and to comply fully with Marsy’s Law.

Please join me in telling everyone you know in Lake County to spread the word – Lake County NEEDS Eric Rinehart.

 

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go to Mar-a-Lago

By Steven Gan

Do you remember the knee-jerk call and response at Trump rallies? Trump would yell out several times to his supporters, “Who’s going to pay for the wall?”  Raising fists, the crowd would shout with one voice, “Mexico!”

That Trump would bring the Mexican government to its knees and make it pay for his big, bad, beautiful wall was just one of the fantastical promises that propelled him to the presidency.

In view of Trump’s 100 days of failures, reversals, and flip-flops, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that we don’t hear much about Mexico paying for the wall anymore, let alone how this monstrosity is even going to be built. Note that Trump never did explain exactly how we were going to force Mexico to foot the bill. But to Trump’s supporters, these annoying details were beside the point. All they cared about was the anti-immigration sentiment behind creating an impenetrable fortification.

Although it was fun while it lasted, now, as the rubber meets the road, some cold hard facts are coming into focus.

One of these facts, ironically, relates to statements by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is backing off Trump’s promise to build his version of the Great Wall of China. “You see, the border is complicated,” Zinke said back at the end of March when speaking to the Public Lands Council.  He elaborated:

“The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”

And then there’s the annoying fact that most of the land in Texas that’s along the Rio Grande is privately owned.  The folks who own the land are not planning to sell cheaply, and they won’t allow the government to take their property (through eminent domain) without a fight that could take years.  A number of these landowners, some of whose families have owned land bordering the river since the 18th century, are vowing to stand firm no matter the legal costs.

And did we mention the cost of the wall itself? Trump claimed at first that he could build the structure, everything said and done, for less than $10 billion. Now it’s estimated at $25 billion. But even if it’s $100 billion, don’t worry, because the Republicans will cancel social programs like Meals on Wheels that feed and support millions of poor Americans in order to pay for it.

Speaking of high costs to the government, let’s not forget Trump’s weekend jaunts down to the “southern White House” to escape from a week of dealing with all the world’s problems that he bragged only he could fix.  As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough go to Mar-a-Lago.

But those of us opposed to any investment in an expensive new border wall can take heart.  So far, Trump has reversed course on the importance of NATO, U.S. involvement in Syria, whether China is a currency manipulator, and more, so it’s likely that in time his grandiose border wall, with all of its immense challenges, will become just one more forgotten promise.

Election Protection Saves Votes

By Barbara Altman

On November 8, Tenth Dems deployed more than 100 lawyers to polling places across the 10th District to help ensure that Election Day went smoothly and that all entitled to vote were permitted to do so.  Each team member received a detailed manual and training that highlighted the issues most likely to arise and then was assigned precincts to visit on Election Day.  Entering polling places as poll watchers, these lawyers served the critical function of monitoring the activity at targeted locations to make sure that lines were moving smoothly, rules against electioneering were being enforced, and voters were not given provisional ballots when they were entitled to vote a regular ballot, among other things.

epcentral3Tenth Dems lead election protection lawyers, including those who drafted the manual and facilitated the training, spent Election Day in law offices made available to serve as election protection headquarters.  From there, they supported the team in the field by answering questions and, when appropriate, conveying concerns to the Cook and Lake County Clerks’ offices.  The headquarters group also redeployed lawyers to trouble spots as they became aware of the need.  An incident log prepared in in election protection headquarters documents how critical these efforts were to the success of Democratic candidates across the 10th District.  Just as the experience of the election protection team in 2014 helped leaders target polling places for 2016, the 2016 log will be an important tool for organizing the election protection effort in 2018.

The headquarters team committee also staffed a Voter Assistance Hotline, directly speaking to voters who wanted to know where to go to vote, whether they were registered, and what documentation they needed to same-day register and vote, among other things.

Tenth Dems has already received requests for help replicating this election protection effort in other districts and states.

More Than 200 Attend Lively Post-Election Forum

By Nancy Krent

On Monday evening, November 21, more than two hundred people gathered at the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest to participate in the Tenth Dems open forum on the 2016 election.  Tenth Dems Founding Chair Lauren Beth Gash opened the meeting by noting that, locally, Election Day was an overwhelming success for the people of the 10th District. In addition to Brad Schneider’s win in the Congressional race, the 10th kept all its incumbent Democrats, picked up the Lake County Circuit Court Clerk’s seat and helped Tammy Duckworth and Susana Mendoza win statewide.  However, that stood in sharp contrast to the scary, shocking rightward pull seen in so many areas of the country with the election of Donald Trump.  As Lauren noted, all of us are still trying to come to grips with the defeat of Hillary Clinton and what that means for Democrats and for the country.  The purpose of the meeting was therefore to mpostelection4ourn, to celebrate, and to plan how to move forward.

For the next two hours, person after person lined up for the microphone and patiently waited their turn to share their concerns, their frustrations, and their suggestions for action.  Four of Tenth Dems’ leaders—Managing Vice-Chair and newsletter editor Barbara Altman, Communications Director Eric Herman, and Leadership Committee members Nancy Krent and Laurence Schiller joined Lauren on stage and occasionally engaged with the speakers on the floor by elaborating upon an issue or answering a question.

The conversation was free-ranging.  Multiple people spoke about the need to engage younger voters and others who feel disenfranchised.   Several speakers mentioned looking for ways to bring young Democrats together, and volunteers are being solicited to reinvigorate the Young Tenth Dems to focus on this goal.

A number of speakers addressed national concerns, such as voter suppression, Trump’s expected Cabinet picks and ethics issues, and attacks on progressive legislation and programs, such as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Among the suggestions for action were letter-writing and educational campaigns, lobbying efforts, partnering with affinity groups, and working to make our voices heard nationally.

One key issue was the Electoral College.  Some speakers talked about efforts to change or abolish the Electoral College, and others wanted to work on studying the issue more fully.

Others spoke about the need to prepare for upcoming elections, including the municipal elections in 2017 and the mid-terms and gubernatorial elections in 2018.  Building and strengthening precinct committee structures, helping with canvassing and organizing, and encouraging and raising support for candidates were some of the suggestions that speakers shared.  Additionally, people suggested reaching out to other states, and other areas of Illinois, where local Democrats may need our support to strengthen their organizing efforts.

Several people talked about the presidential campaign, and discussed some of the factors that may have led to Hillary’s defeat.  Many thought that it was important to study the election so that we could learn from what went wrong to help us build stronger, more successful campaigns going forward.

In all, dozens of people took the mic to voice their individual thoughts, concerns, and suggestions over the course of nearly two hours, and many more signed up to volunteer to put ideas into action.

Tenth Dems plans to host additional, smaller conversations in the coming months, across the 10th District, to talk more about the ideas that have been generated, to seek additional ideas, and to implement action plans.  Find out more at TenthDems.org, and if you are interested in volunteering, you can do so at volunteer@tenthdems.org.

The Way Forward: Do Something!

By Barbara Altman, Editor

It’s barely two weeks after the election, and my stomach won’t settle down.  The punch in the gut from the Electoral College results has subsided to a constant low-grade indigestion.  Instead of feeling well-earned elation from Brad’s, Tammy’s, Susana’s, and others’ hard-won victories, I’m feeling despair about the future.

Nothing that the incoming administration has announced to date is alleviating those feelings.  We’re contemplating an opponent of strengthening the Voting Rights Act, with a record of racist rhetoric, as Attorney General, an Islamophobic hawk with ties to Putin as National Security Advisor, a promoter of White Nationalist ideas as a special advisor, and an unprecedented merger of family, business, and government to a degree that takes concerns about conflicts of interest to a whole new level.  As someone very near and dear to me put it, Trump appears prepared to drain the swamp straight into his own pockets.

What to do?

Hoping for the best is not an option.  For the good of our world, our nation, our communities, our families, and ourselves, we must take action.  Here are my suggestions, in no particular order.  (In a post-election conversation on November 21, these suggestions, and many others, were discussed by more than 200 deeply concerned residents of the 10th Congressional District.  A report of that conversation can be found on p. __.)

  • Join Tenth Dems and become an active volunteer. There is power – and there is solace – in teaming up with like-minded people who share a common goal.
  • Donate to organizations that work for what you believe in. Whether your concerns are the environment, Social Security, Medicare, women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, gun violence prevention, voting rights, or all of the above, there are organizations that will use your money to promote your beliefs.  And that includes Tenth Dems.
  • Make your voice heard by your elected officials. Write to legislators.  Call their offices.  And don’t limit yourself to communicating with Democrats.  Yes, strengthen the resolve of Democrats to stand up for their values.  Then spend an equal amount of energy telling Republicans how strongly you disagree with what they’re planning to do.  Write letters.  Make phone calls.  Then do it again.
  • Participate in peaceful demonstrations.  History shows that protests can move policy.  Stand up for what you believe in.
  • Listen, learn, and speak out. As difficult as it may be for those of us privileged to live in Chicagoland, we need to listen to those we disagree with.  Yes, continue to watch MSNBC and CNN.  But tune into Fox News often enough to know what that network’s millions of viewers are hearing.  Listen respectfully to opposing viewpoints and try to find common ground.  But if someone repeats untruths or maligns other people, whether individually or as groups, respectfully call them out.  And read enough so that when you do call people out, you know what you’re talking about.
  • Stay engaged in the political process. Many of us worked our hearts out over the last weeks and months to help elect Democrats up and down the ticket.  It was not in vain.  We made a difference.  Our district voted overwhelmingly for nearly all of our candidates.  We must continue this effort, through the 2017 municipal elections (today’s mayors are tomorrow’s statewide or national leaders), and on to the 2018 congressional and gubernatorial elections.