Dems present their challenger for state’s attorney

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118902104231483.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Rockford City Attorney Joe Bruscato announced his candidacy for the state’s attorney position Aug. 28 at a press conference at the Justice Center. The election is more than a year away in November 2008.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118902111012003.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Democrats introduced their candidate for Winnebago County State’s Attorney, Joe Bruscato, at the new Winnebago County Justice Center Aug. 28.‘);

Rockford City Attorney Joe Bruscato (D) announced his candidacy for the office of Winnebago County State’s Attorney Aug. 28. Bruscato supervises the city Legal Department’s courthouse division, with specialties in areas of labor law, foreclosure defense, loan collections and bankruptcy. Bruscato is also legal counsel for the Fair Housing Board.

When Paul Logli (R) announced in June he would not seek 2008 re-election to state’s attorney, both sides of the aisle began scrambling for the seat Logli occupied for nearly 21 years.

Republicans required particular haste once Logli’s appointment to the Circuit Court bench became a certainty. While the GOP conducted interviews of Logli’s would-be successors, Democrats took a wait-and-see approach before presenting a unified front.

Although Bruscato had expressed interest in the post prior to County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen’s (R) appointment of Phil Nicolosi (R) to state’s attorney, Barb Vella was also rumored to be eyeing a Democratic nomination.

Bruscato’s Aug. 28 press conference in the lobby of the new Winnebago County Justice Center was a virtual who’s who of local Democrats. Attendees included Greg Tuite, chairman of the Winnebago County Democratic Party, county board members Doug Aurand (D-3) and George Anne Duckett (D-12), County Clerk Margie Mullins, Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) and attorney Frank Perrecone.

Mike Broski, campaign chairman, Aurelio Delarosa, a Rockford police officer and president of the local Police Benevolent and Protective Association, stood alongside Bruscato’s family as the candidate gave his remarks.

“This community has shown an appetite for change; a desire to move forward with purpose and direction,” Bruscato said, noting leadership is the key to success. “The voters of Winnebago County expect excellence, but with that commitment comes the responsibility to choose with careful deliberation its leaders, and that includes this county’s next state’s attorney.”

Bruscato believes he embodies the ideals voters are looking for: “Experience and leadership, marked by a commitment to move forward with resolve, a commitment to openness to change and the heart to be inclusive of all people and ideas.”

Bruscato, a Boylan graduate, began his legal career 20 years ago as an assistant Brown County district attorney in Green Bay, Wis., where he later served as an assistant city attorney. Prior to becoming a Rockford city attorney in 2000, Bruscato also served as director of the Illinois Attorney General’s regional office in Rockford, practiced privately and was an attorney with the Rockford Bankruptcy Clinic.

Bruscato indicated he’s prosecuted everything from traffic to felony cases, while touting government and administrative experience on the state, county and city levels. He added balance, experience and perspective are among the strengths he’s gained in his career.

If elected, Bruscato pledged confident and consistent leadership, his presence in the courtroom and aggressive prosecution of crimes. Bruscato also said he hopes to create new partnerships to ensure everyone has a stake in confronting crime.

“As state’s attorney, I would seek out community leaders, join in their initiatives, partner with other elected officials to create initiatives that steer this community in the direction of progress, excellence and achievement,” Bruscato explained, promising “significant change.”

“When the community takes up a cause, as state’s attorney, I want to be there to roll up my sleeves and join in,” Bruscato added. “I want to be a significant partner in this community.”

As for changes in the state’s attorney’s office, Bruscato believes the talent is already there.

“It’s a question of commitment. So the first thing I would want to do is talk to the staff, find out who’s committed, find out who’s committed to the ideals that I’ve outlined today,” Bruscato indicated. “Those who don’t feel that they can live up to those goals or standards—we’d ask them to move on.”

With 80 percent of the inmates housed in the jail awaiting trial, ability to alleviate the judicial backlog is sure to be a trait voters look for in 2008. With the new jail staffed to handle 800 prisoners, the inmate population hovers around 700, raising fears of yet another overcrowding lawsuit against the county.

“One of the first things that I would do to help control the backlog,” Bruscato asserted, “is I would seek out and to put myself in a position of leadership, discuss with the defense bar, discuss with the judiciary, discuss with law enforcement the issues that are causing the backlog.”

With the number of Democratic heavyweights attending the Aug. 28 announcement, The Rock River Times asked Bruscato if their presence was an indication the emergence of another Democrat is unlikely. The more the merrier, he feels.

“The fun thing about the process that we belong to, Stu, is that it’s open to everybody, and everybody can enter if they choose,” Bruscato responded. “If another individual decides to join the race as a Democrat, or if there’s a Republican individual that joins the race so that we have primaries on either side, that’s a good thing because the process needs that.”

So far, no Republicans have stepped forward to challenge Nicolosi in the April primary. One of the main considerations the county board’s Republican caucus took into account when deliberating Logli’s prosecutorial heir was the ability to wage a well-financed re-election campaign-something Nicolosi promised wouldn’t be a problem.

Bruscato said he’s comfortable with where his campaign is financially. “At this point in time, as you noticed, there are individuals here supporting me, and there are plenty individuals beyond that willing to support me with their time, their effort and financial resources as well.”

While Bruscato indicated sufficient financial resources to get his message out, one Democratic leader later pointed out Republicans typically outspend Democrats in races for county office.

If the field of candidates does not broaden, Bruscato will face Nicolosi in the November 2008 election to capture the dynasty left by Logli. from the Sept. 5 – Sept. 11, 2007, issue

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