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Local

Martin to face Donnelly for state’s attorney

Mendota lawyer tops fellow ex-prosecutor Vescogni in primary

It will be Democrat Todd Martin of Mendota vs. incumbent Republican Karen Donnelly of Tonica in this November’s race for LaSalle County state’s attorney.

Martin, a 54-year-old Mendota attorney and former prosecutor, topped fellow Democrat Brian Vescogni in the March 17 primary contest with 57 percent of the vote. With all precincts reporting, the unofficial tally stood at 5,475-4,156 in Martin’s favor. (It was, however, a low-turnout election: Just 22.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots.)

“I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of support I got from people,” Martin said. “I didn’t expect it. I’ve never been through this before and I had someone tell me, at the beginning, ‘You’ll be amazed at what people have done on your behalf.’ I can’t express how grateful I am.”

Vescogni conceded in a brief statement issued around 10 p.m., trailing by 14 percentage points and with just 13 precincts left to be counted.

“I am proud of the way I ran my campaign and I am very thankful for everyone who supported me and worked hard on my behalf,” Vescogni said. “I want to congratulate Todd on his victory.”

Martin responded in kind and praised Vescogni for keeping the race above-board. “I appreciate the kind words, and I thought he did a very good job in his campaign,” Martin said.

Martin said he was at a loss for why he won the contest by a double-digit percentile, save for the fact he enjoyed good support from the law enforcement community — a sticking point between the two campaigns.

Both Martin and Vescogni had trumpeted their professional experience — 26 years and 20 years, respectively, much of it in the prosecutor’s office — but despite their parallel resumes, Martin appealed to voters by spotlighting two purported differences between him and Vescogni.

First, Martin insisted he had more civil experience — he had been county attorney and had represented LaSalle County even in private practice — and by his measure 30 percent of the state’s attorney’s duties are civil, not criminal.

Second, Martin accused Vescogni of poor relations with police departments, which led in part to the state’s attorney’s office breaking with the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Narcotics Team. The break with Tri-DENT led to the formation of the State’s Attorney Felony Enforcement Team, which spawned six federal lawsuits, two of them still pending, against the county.

Vescogni had tried to distance himself from the SAFE Team in broadcast sessions including one hosted by Shaw Media. The totals, however, suggest he could not shake the perception that he, as head of the narcotics division when SAFE was founded, was a key player in the unit’s formation.

Martin signaled he won’t stray much from his “experience matters” slogan as he turns his attention to Nov. 3. On the criminal side of his resume are six killers imprisoned for a combined 190 years (a seventh, Keith Mackowiak, is doing life) during his years as chief deputy assistant state’s attorney under Brian Towne.

Martin also reminded supporters of his long ties to law enforcement — his two brothers both are cops — and pledged to improve police department relations that he said have deteriorated under Donnelly.

Martin joined the state’s attorney’s office under Joe Navarro and served chiefly in felonies under Navarro and successor Mike James before leaving for private practice, initially with Herbolsheimer Lannon Henson Duncan & Reagan in LaSalle. There, he represented the county on insurance issues.

He returned to the prosecutor’s office shortly after Towne was named state’s attorney in late 2006. Martin served as a Towne chief deputy until 2012, when he became county attorney. Donnelly dismissed him from that post shortly after her election in 2016.

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