By the zingers that flew between McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren and his Democratic opponent Mike Mahon, you could be excused for thinking there was a real contest going on.
In the last debate, the one in which the incumbent said the biggest problem was traffic while Mahon said it was heroin, Nygren hardly engaged Mahon.
Not so this time.
After Mahon reminded people he’d “walk in and save the taxpayers $1 million,” he cited the Deputy Chief of the jail.
“Why do we have a deputy chief, taking a vehicle home. It’s a waste, another crony job.”
Green Party candidate Gus Philpott provided a buffer this time. He said, “I’d probably spent all of it. If I can trim expenditures, I will. Have to look.”
Then, Nygren took a shot:
“You’re a Deputy Chief (of the Cook County Jail with 10,000 inmates). Why don’t they cut your job and save big money?
“Your solution is to fire people.”
Nygren said he wouldn’t do that.
He again said he would bring more revenue, rather than getting rid of people
There was applause from the Sheriff’s supporters such that the moderator admonished,
“I would ask that you restrain yourselves.”
In discussions about the $61 million that Nygren has said renting out the jail has brought into the county, Nygren never answered the question of what the net revenue was, even though the question was asked directly.
Twice Mahon pointed out that Nygren had not answered the question.
“We haven’t seen it broken down. What does does it cost?” Mahon asked.
“How much is it really bring in, Sheriff? You’re just not clear on that. That’s just your being a politician.”
“What happens if the Feds move the detainees to Thomson?” Philpott added.
In discussing training prisoners for work in the outside world, Nygren went off topic to point out that the Crystal Lake Police Department had announced Halloween trick or treating hours on the Nixle system. Mahon had criticized Nygren for using this community alert system to send out his press release about the food training program that is scheduled to start the day before the election.
One of Nygren’s supporters undoubtedly put in the question asking if any of the candidates had been arrested. It was the same one that Brent Smith repeatedly asked at the McHenry County Fair in front of Sally Wiggins’ tent.
“Have you ever been arrested for anything?”
Mahon said he had been arrested for drunken driving 19 years ago.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to my life.
“In 19 years, I haven’t picked a drink. I pleaded ‘No Contest.’”
Philpott revealed he had been stopped for a broken headlight ten minutes after it went out by a Woodstock policeman.
He said that he had heard that there was a $100 bounty “out on me.” The first officer was writing him a warning ticket when a second one came up and told him to issue a ticket.
“Two and a half years later, he told me he wrote the ticket because he had been told to write it.”
Nygren said he had never been arrested.
A shot across Nygren’s bow came twice about Nygren’s spending a lot of time out of the office.
When asked about community outreach, Mahon said he would “get rid of cronyism.”
“I’ll be at work everyday,” he emphasized.
Talking about the most important accomplishment or goal, Mahon added, “I’ll put my hours on the web site.”
In his concluding remarks, he repeated the theme,
“I also think it’s very important for the Sheriff to spend time here. I don’t believe he spends the quality amount of time in McHenry County he should.”
Nygren bragged about his “professionalization of the Sheriff’s Department.”
And his experience:
“I handled dog calls. I’ve handled homicides. Each time I’ve been promoted, I’ve learned,”
said the former Crystal Lake Police Chief.
Philpott said he would strive for openness. He complained about not being able to get information about McHenry County Crime Stoppers, whose calls are answered by Sheriff’s Department dispatchers.
He showed his sense of humor by pointing out that he was “guaranteed to come in no worse than third.”
He also said he would drive his own car, a 1999 Volkswagen, to work.
“I’m not going to ask the county taxpayers to pay for my gas,” he added.
Mahon taunted Nygren for having had the Chicago Tribune endorsement in the primary election.
“But he lost it (for the November election).”
Asked about community involvement, Mahon had an interesting answer.
“I have four children. I work 16 hours a day to support my family.
‘I’m not very involved with my community.
“I’m very involved with drug abuse.”
Philpott spoke of his involvement in special education and mental health.
Nygren was proud of his work with the Shop with a Cop program, which buys needy kids toys for Christmas.
Asked about red light cameras, Philpott’s response was, “I’m absolutely in favor of red light cameras,” explaining that many people “scoot through on a yellow light. The habit needs to change.”
Mahon said it was a legislative issue, but pointed out that vehicles were being rear ended because of stopping too fast.
Speaking last on the issue, Nygren came out flatly against them.
“I won’t hedge on the question. I’m absolutely against them.”
Outside the auditorium was judicial candidate Gordon Graham and State Rep. candidate Robert Kaempfe.