ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Two candidates are vying to become the next Winnebago County State’s Attorney.

We spoke with each candidate about what their approach would be to using the courts to enforce COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where I would be criminalizing these actions,” said Republican Nominee J Hanley.

“If there’s no other way to get compliance, that’s what we would have to do,” said Democratic Candidate Paul Carpenter.

Paul Carpenter is the democratic candidate hoping to be Winnebago County’s next State’s Attorney. He hopes businesses would come into COVID-19 compliance without the need for legal action btu says he would be willing to step in if necessary.

“There would be a few things guiding my decisions. One is listening to the experts, the health experts. That’s gotta be the number one priority for any state’s attorney, any official, should be listening to the health experts on what needs to be done,” Carpenter said.

J Hanley is the Republican on the ballot. He doesn’t think it is practical for the court system to have a role in enforcement.

“To brand someone, or a business, a criminal for what amounts to alleged administrative violations is problematic,” Hanley said.

Hanley thinks the State’s Attorney’s Office has higher priority issues to focus on.

“We are in the middle of a gun crime pandemic. There are barely enough state’s attorney’s in the office to prosecute the serious violent crimes that are happening right now,” he added.

But Carpenter argues the State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutes thousands of misdemeanor cases every year.

“There are plenty that are not as high a priority as violence and gun crimes, but they still get prosecuted. You can walk and chew gum at the same time,” added Carpenter.