Incumbent McConchie, Peterson clash over SAFE-T Act in 26th state Senate District race

  • Dan McConchie and Maria Peterson are the candidates for the 26th state Senate District seat.

    Dan McConchie and Maria Peterson are the candidates for the 26th state Senate District seat.

Updated 10/7/2022 11:09 AM

While the top Republican in the Illinois Senate, Dan McConchie, wants to repeal the SAFE-T Act, the Democrat hoping to unseat him this fall supports the law, which implemented a slew of changes around criminal justice, including the elimination of cash bail.

McConchie and longtime Barrington businesswoman Maria Peterson are running in the 26th Senate District, which includes all or parts of Algonquin, the Barrington area, Deer Park, Fox River Grove, Hawthorn Woods, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Island Lake, Kildeer, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Long Grove, Mundelein, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Tower Lakes, Volo and Wauconda


McConchie, who described a "terrifying crime wave in Illinois and Chicago," frames issues around crime as being about support for police, or lack thereof. Peterson, a Democrat, described approaching the issue in terms of fairness and minimizing biases.

Recently conservatives, including McConchie, have rallied around repealing the Illinois SAFE-T Act, particularly the elimination of cash bail, which will take effect on Jan. 1.

Many Democrats, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, argue the existing cash bail system needs reform, and the SAFE-T Act needs only to be clarified.

Peterson, who grew up in Chicago and has lived in Barrington since 1996, described herself as a "daughter of immigrants." After serving roughly a decade as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor, Peterson ran a personal training business for over 20 years.

McConchie, a veteran and Hawthorn Woods resident, is the Senate Republican leader and has a background in public policy, including 12 years with the national anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

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McConchie said in an interview that a police officer told him at a recent meeting that "if somebody pitches a tent in a resident's backyard, an officer can only give them a ticket but can't remove them from the premises."

A task force set up by the Illinois Supreme Court to prepare the court system for the law's implementation countered similar claims by police and Republican lawmakers about trespassing, saying that officers can remove a person from a location before issuing a citation and that suspects can be detained for all class A trespassing misdemeanors.

McConchie said he has heard from constituents that they are afraid to go to Chicago, citing concerns about the ability of law enforcement to apprehend criminals.

Peterson, however, said she supports the SAFE-T Act. She accused Republicans of fearmongering and called lawsuits on the elimination of cash bail -- like the one filed by McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally -- "frivolous."

The goal of reforming pretrial release practices is about fairness, Peterson said. The determining factor on releasing suspects pretrial should be whether they are a danger to the community, not whether they have enough money for bail, Peterson said.

Peterson also highlighted her support for police on her website, saying they should be provided "everything they need to be effective at upholding the law and respected in and responsive to the communities they serve."

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