Campaign advertisements in the 81st state House race continue to question the honesty of candidate Keith Matune, who is challenging incumbent state Rep. Ron Sandack in a bitter race for the Republican party's nomination in the March 18 primary.
The campaign has been contentious from the start as Sandack and Matune, both of Downers Grove, compete for votes from residents of the 81st District, which includes parts of Downers Grove, Naperville, Lisle, Darien, Westmont and Woodridge.
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The race has turned into one of the top handful of GOP primaries in the state. And with incumbent state representatives Jeanne Ives of Wheaton and Sandra Pihos of Glen Ellyn facing tough primaries, too, DuPage County has become a Republican battleground in Illinois.
One recent campaign mailer sent in the 81st District questions Matune's honesty concerning his reply to a Daily Herald questionnaire that asks all candidates if they have ever "been arrested for or convicted of a crime."
Matune said he has never been arrested. But the mailer cites documents showing he was arrested in 1992 in Indiana and charged with public indecency, to which he pleaded guilty in 1993.
The Indiana arrest and finding of guilt is in addition to DuPage County court records that show Matune was arrested in 1991 on an out-of-state warrant and charged with being a fugitive from justice after writing a $150 check that was returned for nonsufficient funds. The case was dismissed after Matune paid $2,000 bond, records show.
Matune, a 44-year-old teacher in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and school board member in Downers Grove District 99, said he answered the candidate questionnaire truthfully.
"Those incidents nearly 25 years ago were all expunged," Matune said. "When you apply for anything on your employment record, they ask you to leave out any records that have been expunged. According to the Illinois State Police database, I have not been arrested or convicted. That's what I was going on when I was initially asked about it and now."
The Illinois State Police law enforcement agencies data system, as the database is formally known, tracks all criminal history records for crimes committed in Illinois and also gives police access to the National Crime Information Center.
But arrests or crimes committed in other states only appear in National Crime Information Center data if they fit into certain categories including violent crimes, deportations, gang activity or terrorism, wanted or missing people or stolen items. Misdemeanors such as public indecency are not listed among the types of crimes the National Crime Information Center reports to other agencies such as Illinois State Police.
Officials in District 204's human resources department said the district uses Illinois State Police and FBI criminal history databases to search for arrest records when it conducts background checks. Teaching applicants are not legally required to disclose arrests that were expunged or sealed.
Matune said his employment as a teacher proves his record is clear, despite campaign ads to the contrary.
"These mailers -- paid for by Republican donor dollars and basically smearing another Republican -- are disgraceful," Matune said. "It's Ron Sandack's desperate attack against me because he has nothing to defeat me with because his record over the last two years is patently worse than what I might have done 25 years ago as a college student."
Sandack, a 49-year-old attorney, said his campaign did not send the mailer about Matune's public indecency arrest. The advertisement says it was paid for by the House Republican Organization.
The group is run by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, and Sandack is one of Durkin's leaders on the House floor in Springfield.
During an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald, Sandack said Matune showed "a problem in character" by being "less than truthful" in replying to the candidate questionnaire about his arrest record.
"Mr. Matune's past is his past," Sandack said this week. "Whatever happened in the past is one thing. His inability to reconcile and be honest about it is another thing. I don't know if he's recognized and acknowledged it to this day."
Both candidates say they would rather focus their campaigns on issues that affect the district and the state.
Matune says he is focusing on "fighting for families, laying out my agenda for how I would be the best voice for our district in Springfield."
Sandack says he is focusing on continued pension reform, implementing term limits, making the redistricting process more fair and creating an office of "the repealer" to do away with redundant or outdated laws.
The winner of the March 18 primary will advance to the Nov. 4 general election. No Democrat has filed nominating petitions to seek the seat.