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Former prosecutor wants GOP nomination
By Charles Keeshan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/8/2007 6:26 PM

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With a series of frontal assaults befitting his military background, Woodstock attorney Daniel Regna formally launched his campaign Tuesday to unseat McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi.

Regna, 43, made official an announcement that has been expected for about two weeks, telling a crowd of about 60 supporters he will challenge the incumbent Bianchi for the Republican party nomination in February's primary.

"McHenry County must have change," said Regna, a felony prosecutor under Bianchi predecessor Gary Pack. "McHenry County must end Mr. Bianchi's failed regime."

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and former Army captain, Regna made his announcement Tuesday at Woodstock's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and sprinkled his speech with military references, even donning a cavalry hat at one point.

And he repeatedly attacked the integrity of the current state's attorney's administration, labeling the office a "political command post" for Bianchi and his top advisors. By name he mentioned Bianchi office manager Karen Rhodes and chief investigator Ron Salgado, who serve as co-chairs of his re-election campaign.

"Mr. Bianchi has built an insidious and nefarious political machine entrenched deep within the walls of the state's attorney's office," he said. "The merging of an elected official's political apparatus with his governmental office is dangerous. Political machines always lead to political corruption."

Bianchi rejected Regna's claims, saying there is no substance to accusations he has put politics first in his hirings.

"The loyalties of each and every person I've hired is to the citizens of McHenry County, foremost and above all," he said. "I'm going to look at this challenge as an opportunity to express the colossal successes of this office to the citizens of McHenry County."

Regna also sharply criticized Bianchi over the case of Allen Lee, the Cary-Grove High School student charged with disorderly conduct earlier this year for writing a violent essay in a creative writing class. Bianchi's office ultimately dismissed the charges, but not before the case garnered widespread national, and even some international, media attention.

"This matter should have been kept private between the family and school," Regna said. "Mr. Bianchi traipsed around with this kid's future in the glow of the media spotlight to stoke his ego."

Bianchi, who announced his re-election bid more than four months ago, would seem to have a significant head start on Regna both in lining up campaign financing and political support. Regna admitted Tuesday he has yet to secure a formal endorsement or collect any financial donations.

However, he appears to have some potentially significant political backing on his side. Among the faces in the crowd at his announcement were county GOP Chairman Bill LeFew, a one-time Bianchi supporter, and several county and municipal police officials.

Both Bianchi and Regna took out nominating forms Tuesday, the first day they can begin circulating petitions to their names on the primary ballot.

Also taking out petitions were county board members John Hammerand, Mary Donner, John Jung and Dan Shea, as well as potential county board candidates Jim Schlader, Tom McDermott and John S. Jones. However, it is likely at least some of those nominating forms were taken out on behalf of other would-be candidates.