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Crime & Courts

Gingrich returns to county for sheriff candidate's fundraiser

Newt Gingrich (right) talks with county board member Nick Provenzano before speaking to guests at a fundraiser Monday for sheriff's candidate Bill Prim at the Bull Valley Country Club.
Newt Gingrich (right) talks with county board member Nick Provenzano before speaking to guests at a fundraiser Monday for sheriff's candidate Bill Prim at the Bull Valley Country Club.

BULL VALLEY – The primary is more than a year away, but McHenry County sheriff hopeful Bill Prim stepped up his campaigning Monday with a fundraiser featuring former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich and his wife, Callista, attended the $500-a-ticket event at the Bull Valley Country Club, with Gingrich delivering a speech about 25 minutes long to a crowd of about 80 people.

“We think you have a great candidate for sheriff, one who will really modernize the county, who will bring ... integrity and modern policing techniques to the sheriff’s office,” Gingrich said. “So we are thrilled to have the opportunity to be here.”

Huntley resident Matt McNamara is involved in Prim’s campaign and handled security for Gingrich during last year’s GOP presidential primary.

Gingrich largely spoke about national issues and the perception of the Republican Party.

“If I had any one message to give to conservatives or Republicans around the country, it is that we have very often had to persevere through difficult times,” Gingrich said. “You have an obligation not to give up your values ... but to understand all the people you’re going to represent.”

Prim, who spent 27 years with the Des Plaines Police Department and lives in Cary, is one of three candidates running for sheriff in the 2014 Republican primary.

Sheriff Keith Nygren is not seeking re-election, but has voiced support for Undersheriff Andrew Zinke, a longtime member of the office.

Jim Harrison, a Woodstock-based attorney specializing in employment law, is also in the race. He worked as a deputy in the 1980s before being admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association and previously represented the sheriff’s office under former McHenry County State’s Attorney Gary Pack.

Prim briefly addressed attendees, saying he would lead a clean, efficient and professional office. He also got in a few jabs at Nygren.

“I’ll lead with honor, and I’ll lead with dignity,” Prim said. “And I will not blaze my name across every piece of equipment that the county owns.”

Prim said he plans to partner with the community, starting with the state’s attorney’s office. The relationship between Nygren and McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi has publicly soured, with Nygren endorsing Bianchi’s opponent in the 2008 primary election.

Bianchi was a host of Monday’s fundraiser, but he stopped short of publicly endorsing Prim.

“When I speak to him, he tells me his values and his goals, and I think he would make a good partner in law enforcement,” Bianchi said. “He asked me to publicly endorse him, and I told him that I would consider it.”

One person who has endorsed Prim is former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, who lives in the sheriff’s office’s jurisdiction in an unincorporated area near McHenry.

“In McHenry County, there needs to be some good, clean, healthy, open reform,” Walsh said. “The men and women who work in that department are wonderful. It just needs some newness at the top of it.”

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