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Sheriff candidates debate on campus

Peoria County sheriff candidates Brian Asbell (right) and Brian Fengel (left), came to Bradley to answer students’ questions ahead of the elections on Wednesday. Photo by William Craine.

With election day quickly approaching, local candidates are busy campaigning to secure their votes. Two Peoria county sheriff candidates, incumbent Peoria county sheriff Brian Asbell and Bartonville Chief of Police Brian Fengel, visited Bradley to debate on Wednesday evening. 

Soon after their opening statements, both Democratic nominee Fengel and Republican nominee Asbell agreed that election of the position should not be based on party. 

“[A sheriff] should not be a Republican or Democrat. You should run bipartisan,” Fengel said. “As a law enforcement official, we don’t ask you if you get in trouble ‘hi, are you a Democrat or Republican?’” 

“I am not a politician,” Asbell said. “I am a Republican candidate. I promoted a strong Democrat to replace me as jail superintendent, because she had the ability.” 

When asked about nepotism, both candidates promised that they will not favor any family or friends if given the power as the sheriff. 

“I want them to find their own way.” Asbell said. “If they did apply for this job, I’ll push them to go to other agencies.” 

Democratic candidate Fengel said he will put a policy in place to prevent nepotism. 

“Nepotism shouldn’t be at the sheriff department, and it has been,” Fengel said. “I will set policies in place, I will not hire my family or friends.”

When asked about the increasing opioid crisis across the nation, Fengel said he believes that his experience working as a first responder and his work with the Safe Passages program will help him to deal with this national issue. The program allows for addicts to turn in drugs and ask for help without being charged.

“We don’t need to take those people to jail,” Fengel said. “They are no threat to our community. It is what I am going to try to put into place to help people when they fall into this crisis.”

Asbell believes all addictions, not just opiod addictions, are a problem. He said the way to reduce the opioid crisis is with medical treatment. He believes locking people up is not the answer. 

“We need to look at all these addictions as a health crisis,” Asbell said. “What we’re doing now is a MAT, medical assisted treatment while they are in custody. It’s a shot that also works for alcohol.” 

An issue in America today is school safety. The candidates weighed in on the issue. Asbell said he would like to have a resource officer in every school.

“It’s not just to have that gun on the hip,” Asbell said. “It’s about the relationships. I don’t think we would’ve had Parkland or these other terrible situations in our country if we had relationships.”

Fengel said he would look to find funding for schools to have resource officers.

“I will look for federal grants to get resource officers in schools,” Fengel said. “I will talk to school districts to see how we can make it happen.”

Bradley University Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service and Bradley College Democrats and College Republicans co-hosted the event. 

“Local election matters a lot. This is our public safety and a lot of critical decisions are made at local level” said Brad McMillan, executive director of Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service. “Unfortunately, in America, we have one of the lowest voter turnout percentages in a developed democracy around the world. I’m hoping that younger generation starts to turn that back in a better direction.” 

The State of Illinois currently still accept online voter registration. Residents can also register at a voting station on Nov. 6 with valid government IDs. 

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