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MATTOON — Incumbent state’s attorneys face primary election challenges in three area counties, while the post is being vacated in Coles County, setting off a wide-open race there.

State’s attorneys in Christian, Douglas and Piatt counties hope voters recognize their experience in office and allow them to move one step closer to keeping their jobs. The primary election is March 20.

In Christian County, State’s Attorney Thomas Finks is running against Public Defender Michael Havera in the Democratic primary.

Finks is serving a 60-day suspension from practicing law as a result of a violation in 2009 when he was running for judicial election. Once the suspension is completed, Finks looks to return to his job, not just to finish his current term but beyond that for another four-year term.

Finks was disciplined by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Illinois Supreme Court for problems associated with the circulation of nominating petitions. Finks had not previously been disciplined and was cooperative in the disciplinary process, admitting to his misconduct.

The suspension began Feb. 3.

Finks was elected state’s attorney in Christian County in 2008 after a long law career which included serving as Shelby County state’s attorney.

Havera wants to switch roles and become the county’s top prosecutor. His plans include working closely with law enforcement in the pursuit of justice and standing tall for victims’ rights.

In Douglas County, State’s Attorney Kevin Nolan said his experience is what matters in the race against Tuscola lawyer Tammy Baer. Nolan, a Republican, has held the position for two terms since 2004.

Nolan said in that time, he has demonstrated the ability to do the job. He added that his office has stayed under budget each year he has worked there.

“Especially true in smaller counties, your state’s attorney is the county’s lead attorney in court, standing at the table facing the jury, battling very skilled defense attorneys,” Nolan said. “You have to know they have done it before and done it well.”

Baer said her varied background practicing law helps qualify her for the position.

“I have experience handling an extensive variety of legal matters, which will assist me in handling matters as state’s attorney,” Baer said.

Baer would like to be accessible to citizens and look at alternative sentencing solutions and jail overcrowding, all while working within budget constraints.

In Piatt County, State’s Attorney Dana Rhoades is running as a Republican against lawyer Steve Thomas, who has a private practice in Monticello.

Rhoades points to her experience in prosecuting serious felony offenses and improving Piatt County’s felony conviction rate. She said the main issue is which candidate will best serve the citizens of the county.

Thomas said he is running because he has a different point of view regarding the job of the state’s attorney, primarily about the handling of crime victims’ rights.

“A state’s attorney has a duty to seek justice, not merely convictions, and you do not do that by depriving crime victims or defense attorneys a voice,” Thomas said.

The Coles County race features contested competitions in the Republican and Democratic primaries. Longtime State’s Attorney Steve Ferguson decided not to seek re-election, opening up the position for a new candidate.

Ferguson, a Democrat, was first elected in 1992.

Republicans Duane Deters and Brian Bower are running in the contest. Deters is a former Coles County assistant state’s attorney, now working as head of the DUI and traffic division in the Macon County State’s Attorney Office, while Bower is Charleston city attorney.

Deters ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in Coles County in 2008.

“Coles County needs an experienced leader,” Deters said. “I have the experience necessary to lead the office in the right direction. I have the energy and dedication to make Coles County as safe as possible to live, work and raise a family.”

Bower is running based on his experience, noting his long law career makes him qualified to be state’s attorney.

The Democratic race features candidates Tom Bucher and Todd Reardon. Bucher is a Coles County assistant state’s attorney, while Reardon is a Charleston lawyer who ran for state’s attorney as an independent in 2004 and as a Green Party candidate four years ago.

Bucher said his primary goal is to seek justice, particularly as he has become the main prosecutor for sex crimes in the county.

“I do so for all the citizens of Coles County and the state of Illinois, but especially for the victims of the crimes, in particular for the child victims,” Bucher said. “It is very satisfying to empower the child victims of sex offenses and to be their voice in the courtroom against their abusers.”

Reardon said he has learned from working in 79 of Illinois’ 102 counties. Reardon said that work gives him a better understanding to be efficient and seek justice.

Christian County-Democratic

Tom Finks

Age: 54

Residece: Taylorville

Family: Wife, Valerie Lynn, and four children.

Education: Shelbyville High School, DePauw University (history and political science) and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale School of Law.

Current Job: Christian County state’s attorney since 2008.

Political experience: Former Shelby County state’s attorney.

Michael Havera

Age: 33 

Residence: Taylorville.

Family: Wife, Kyra, and three children.

Education: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (business administration) and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale School of Law. 

Current Job: Christian County public defender.

Coles County-Democratic

Tom Bucher

Age: 43

Family: Ninth of 12 children. Father was a prosecutor in St. Louis, mother was a nurse.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (biology), Southern Illinois University at Carbondale School of Law.

Current job: Coles County assistant state’s attorney in since May 2008.

Todd Reardon

Age: 39

Home: Rural Mattoon

Family: Son, Todd Reardon Jr.

Education: Mattoon High School, Eastern Illinois University (master’s degree) and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale School of Law.

Current job: Private practice based in Charleston since 1998.

Political experience: Ran for state’s attorney as an independent in 2004 and as a Green Party candidate in 2008.

Coles County-Republican

Brian Bower

Age: 53

Residence: Charleston

Family: Wife, Mary, and three sons.

Education: Charleston High School, Northwestern University (communication studies) and Northern Illinois University College of Law.

Current job: Charleston city attorney.

Duane Deters

Age: 40

Residence: Rural Humboldt

Family: Wife, Beth, and four children.

Education: Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale School of Law.

Current job: Head of the DUI and Traffic Division in Macon County State’s Attorney’s Office, supervising a staff of three attorneys and two administrative staff. He prosecutes other felony crimes.

Douglas County-Republican

Kevin Nolan

Age: 46

Residence: Tuscola

Family: Wife, Jennifer, and two sons.

Education: Northern Illinois University (political science) and John Marshall Law School, Chicago.

Current Job: Douglas County state’s attorney since 2004.

Tammy L. Baer

Age: 41

Residence: Tuscola

Family: Husband, Mike, and three sons.

Education: Arthur High School, Lake Land College (business administration) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (business administration) and the University of Missouri at Columbia School of Law.

Current job: Owner of Law Offices of Tammy L. Baer since 2008.

Piatt County-Republican

Dana Rhoades

Age: 41

Residence: Monticello

Family: Husband, Kerry, and two children.

Education: Monticello High School, Illinois State University and Loyola University of Chicago School of Law.

Current Job: Piatt County state’s attorney since 2008.

Steve Thomas

Age: 57 

Residence: Monticello

Family: Single. Four brothers and mother live in area.

Education: LeTourneau College (aviation technology), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Master of Divinity), University of Illinois College of Law.

Current Job: Private practice as a solo attorney.

Political Experience: Ran for Illinois Senate in 2002.

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