Madison County’s incumbent state’s attorney has a challenger in the November election.
Madison County Republicans, during a convention Wednesday night, decided to back longtime resident and retired attorney Ron Williams in his run for state’s attorney. Williams will face incumbent Tom Gibbons, a Democrat.
Williams worked in the public defender’s office for 12 years; he has lived in Madison County for nearly 30 years. Williams, a Glen Carbon resident, retired from the public defender’s office almost four years ago. Since then, Williams says he has limited himself to pro bono work in two programs that aim to help people in the county who can’t afford attorney services.
“Initially, I became concerned about the way Mr. Gibbons has politicized the office. I’m just a little put off by the way it’s been done. The state’s attorney’s office should be a little bit like the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. It shouldn’t be a political arm of the administration,” Williams said. “When I got to looking into the possibility of running, I discovered some things that really bothered me about the administration of justice in the county.”
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Initially, I became concerned about the way Mr. Gibbons has politicized the office. I’m just a little put off by the way it’s been done.
Ron Williams, candidate for state’s attorney
Williams cited his concerns of “higher violent crime rates” compared to neighboring counties and “few trials” conducted in Madison County. He said the county filed 3,035 felonies last year and had five trials.
Gibbons disputed Williams’ concerns and defended his record.
“Politics plays no place in law enforcement and prosecution. We look at the facts, we apply the law and we apply the standards of our community to seek justice for victims in a community at large. Politics doesn’t play any part in our prosecution of criminals. That’s an absurd suggestion,” Gibbons said.
He added, “As far as the statistics, Mr. Williams would be greatly mistaken about the amount of trial work that happens in our office ... We try cases on a regular basis. In fact, we just got a (guilty) verdict back today on a predatory criminal sexual assault case against a child.”
We look at the facts, we apply the law and we apply the standards of our community to seek justice for victims in a community at large. Politics doesn’t play any part in our prosecution of criminals. That’s an absurd suggestion.
Tom Gibbons, state’s attorney
Gibbons was appointed to the position in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012. He has been a prosecutor since the 1990s.
Gibbons said he welcomes a challenge as part of the democratic process and is looking forward to the general election.
“I look forward to speaking to citizens, to voters about my record of very tough law enforcement, about our extraordinary success in trial and our very pro-community and public safety initiatives that we’ve been working on throughout my entire term. We’ve had some very challenging issues to deal with. I think working together with law enforcement and the community, we’ve met those challenges head-on,” Gibbons said.
Chris Slusser, chairman of the Madison County Republicans, said the group sees Williams as an experienced candidate for the job. He says the organization plans to put its “entire operation” behind Williams in the upcoming months.
“In my opinion, Tom Gibbons, the state’s attorney, he’s been, by far, the most politically active state’s attorney we’ve ever seen in this county. That’s saying a lot for Madison County. We felt that he needed a challenger,” Slusser said. “Mr. Williams has a very impressive resume.”
Williams discussed his experience in the military and professional work as a civil engineer. Williams said he served in the U.S. Army from 1961-1993. He stayed in Glen Carbon after his last assignment in the Army as a project manager working to modernize a helicopter fleet.
“I got interested in criminal law when I was in the Army. In those days, perhaps two generations ago, most court-martial activity in the services was not done by lawyers, it was done by line officers. My first criminal trial was in 1966 actually, when I prosecuted an American solider for the forcible rape of a 6-year-old German girl,” Williams said, adding that he went to law school four years after he retired from the military.
No Republicans ran in the primary to be on the ballot for the state’s attorney election.
Williams will need to get 231 signatures from registered voters through a petition process to get on the November ballot, but Williams says he’s aiming for at least 400 in anticipation of a challenge. He says his campaign has received 70 petition signatures so far, less than a day after he announced his plan to run for office.
The filing period for candidates closes at 5 p.m. on May 31, according to the clerk’s office.