First-year State Senator Suzanne "Suzi" Schmidt (R-Lake Villa, Ill.) announced Wednesday that she will both stay in office and run for re-election in 2012, even as she faces criticism over the disturbing content of several domestic dispute calls where she identified herself as an elected official and told 911 operators to ignore her husband's requests for assistance.
Schmidt said in a statement that she and her husband of 31 years "have been engaged in marital disputes that have resulted in inappropriate behavior." She expressed "embarrassment and extreme disappointment" with her situation and apologized to her Lake County constituents.
"This week I have begun counseling to help in resolving the issues in my personal life," Schmidt continued. "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, and the issues in my personal life will not prohibit me from doing the job they elected me to do."
Though reports had already emerged about two recent domestic altercations at the Schmidt household in recent weeks, including one where Suzi allegedly hit her husband with a cell phone and bit him, scrutiny of the former Lake County Board chairman was heightened when the contents of this and other 911 calls made by the quarreling couple were publicly released.
(Scroll down to listen to a news report featuring audio from Sen. Schmidt's contentious 911 calls.)
In one call Schmidt made last Christmas, the state senator, after identifying herself as the former county chairman, told the operator to ignore her husband Robert's call should he later request help. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, she said her husband was afraid of her because "he knows I have connections."
On another call made by her husband Robert on Sept. 26, Schmidt is heard in the background saying, "You bet I did," after he accused her of biting him. In a third call over the past year, in August, Schmidt was accused of ramming her car into his.
No charges were filed against either of the Schmidts following any of the calls.
Pat Brady, Illinois GOP chairman, told the Chicago Daily Herald that "the phone call and the content of the phone call are completely inappropriate." Brady added that he was disappointed in Schmidt's announcement that she would stay in office.
Christine Radogno, the Illinois Senate GOP's head, told the Chicago Tribune on Sept. 29, shortly after the tapes were released, that "we cannot and will not tolerate abuse of the public trust." By Wednesday, however, Radogno sounded convinced that Schmidt is "taking the appropriate measures to continue to address these issues while maintaining her focus on the needs of the district."
Schmidt's husband has, meanwhile, filed for a divorce, according to the Tribune.
The revelations have also coincided with a Republican rival, and longtime ally of Schmidt's, stepping up to challenge her in the March 2012 primary: Former Lake County Board member Larry Leafblad. Leafblad said he is going up against Schmidt because he wants to keep the Senate seat under Republican control and isn't confident that Schmidt is capable of accomplishing that.
"She's got a pile of negative that will cost her in a tight race," Leafblad told the Daily Herald.
WATCH a video report including recordings from Schmidt's 911 calls:
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