GALENA, Ill. — John Hay said he feels he’s done well as Jo Daviess County state’s attorney.
For the last four years, he’s worked as the county’s prosecutor to increase felony sentences and promote rehabilitation efforts for first-time and nonviolent offenders.
“I’ve made a lot of progress in making our county safer,” Hay said. “I want to keep dangerous criminals off the street.”
Hay hopes voters see fit to retain him during the Nov. 8 general elections. The Republican incumbent will face Democratic challenger Ronald Leinen, a Galena attorney.
Hay said his strongest advantage in the race is his experience as a prosecutor for multiple counties in Illinois.
“I already have experience with Jo Daviess County, and before that I was a prosecutor for Stephenson County,” Hay said. “I’ve been building on my experience to get better and better at what I do.”
Raised in Warren, Ill., Hay ran for the state’s attorney position in 2012 because he thought the county was dismissing far too many felony cases, he said.
“I saw so many felony cases get dropped that should have been sentenced,” Hay said. “I just knew that it could be done better.”
From 2013 to 2015, 91.7 percent of defendants in county felony cases were found guilty of a criminal offense, according to stats from Hay’s office. A little more than 80 percent of those verdicts resulted in felony sentences.
As state’s attorney, Hay’s main goal is to continue to prosecute all felony cases, he said.
“These are the cases that are important,” Hay said. “We can’t let up on them.”
Jo Daviess County also deals with numerous illegal drug charges. Hay said he wants to focus on rehabilitation efforts for cases in which defendants aren’t thought to be threats to society.
Hay added that he works to prevent drug charges by educating local students through presentations on drugs and alcohol.
“I’m pretty active in trying to curb it,” Hay said. “Drug offenses are some of the highest number of cases we see every year in the county.”
Hay said he also has made an effort to reduce spending in his department every year.
In addition to prosecuting cases, the state’s attorney works as legal counsel for the Jo Daviess County Board.
Hay said he has worked extensively to provide adequate legal advice for the county on issues such as the development of a new destination marketing organization.
“Sometimes, it can take a lot of time to research something for the county,” Hay said. “The most important thing is to make sure the county is legally sound.”
With this experience, Hay is certain he is the best candidate for the position of state’s attorney, he said.
“I’ve been doing this for years now,” Hay said. “I know how the county works, and I think I know what it needs.”