Suzi Schmidt staying in Senate despite 911 call controversy
Embattled state Sen. Suzi Schmidt isn't stepping down and will seek re-election in 2012, the Lake Villa Township Republican said Wednesday.
"I believe I can and will continue to serve the citizens of Lake County with the same dedication and energy I've had for the past 25 years," Schmidt said in a five-paragraph statement emailed to the media. "The issues in my personal life will not prohibit me from doing the job they elected me to do."
She also used the statement to again apologize for making a now-controversial Christmas Day call to sheriff's police.
In that call, a recording of which has been made public and broadcast by the media, Schmidt identified herself as the former Lake County Board chairman and told a 911 dispatcher to ignore any calls from her husband, Robert, after a domestic dispute.
In Wednesday's statement, Schmidt called the request "a lapse in judgment" and said she hopes "my constituents can forgive me."
Schmidt has not made herself available to reporters since the controversy began last week. She did not respond to Daily Herald interview requests Wednesday.
Schmidt came under fire for the Christmas Day 911 call and other Lake County sheriff's police reports of domestic disturbances. No charges have been filed against Suzi or Robert Schmidt.
Some Republicans have pressured her to resign. Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said he was disappointed with Schmidt's decision to stay in office.
"The phone call and the content of the phone call are completely inappropriate," said Brady, of St. Charles.
But Schmidt had supporters Wednesday, too.
Lake County Republican Party leader Bob Cook said he "couldn't be happier" Schmidt is staying in office.
"She's our state senator, and I think she's our best chance of winning the election (next year)," said Cook, of Wauconda.
Republican state Rep. JoAnn Osmond is in Schmidt's corner, too.
"I'm ecstatic," Osmond said of Schmidt's decision to stay in office. "I think it's a wonderful thing for her district."
Osmond said Schmidt's home life has taken her on a "roller coaster" of emotions that led to the now widely heard 911 calls.
"She felt so bad about it when she thought about what she actually did," Osmond said.
The 911 calls and police reports from three separate incidents, the most recent of which was last week, raised questions about whether Schmidt improperly used her political status to influence police responses.
In her statement Wednesday, Schmidt said fears that the "humiliating" details of her marital dispute would be made public "clouded my judgment," leading to the pre-emptive 911 call.
"My embarrassment and extreme disappointment with our situation in no way justified or excused my behavior, which was wrong," she said.
Schmidt has begun counseling to help resolve the issues in her personal life, she said.
When the tapes became public last week, state Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno called the conversations "extremely troubling" and said public officials cannot tolerate "abuse of the public trust."
But on Wednesday, Radogno said Schmidt assured her "she is taking the appropriate measures to continue to address these issues."
"She has clearly accepted responsibility for her inappropriate behavior in dealing with a very difficult personal situation," Radogno said in a statement. "She has acknowledged that her actions were wrong and has asked for the forgiveness of her constituents. She assures me she is taking the appropriate measures to continue to address these issues while maintaining her focus on the needs of the district."
State Sen. Terry Link, leader of the Democratic organization in Lake County, called the Schmidts' domestic difficulties "an unfortunate situation for anyone to go through." But he also questioned why no arrests had been made after any of the police calls.
"I would hope that the state's attorney and the sheriff were not doing any political favors here," said Link, of Waukegan.
Both Sheriff Mark Curran and State's Attorney Michael Waller are Republicans.
Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller has said he reviewed the reports taken by the deputies and determined that criminal charges were not warranted because a case could not be proven in court.
Former Lake County Board member Larry Leafblad on Wednesday told the Daily Herald he will challenge Schmidt in the March 2012 GOP primary for the 31st Senate District post.
A longtime political ally of Schmidt, Leafblad said he's running because the GOP can't afford to lose the seat to the Democrats. He denied his challenge is personal but called Schmidt "wounded."
"She's got a pile of negative that will cost her in a tight race," said Leafblad, of Grayslake.
County board member Melinda Bush of Grayslake is the lone Democratic candidate for the post. Bush said Schmidt's decision to stay in office doesn't affect her plans.
• Daily Herald State Government Writer Mike Riopell contributed to this report.