Decision 2018: In-Depth Look at the Candidates
CHICAGO — Two Republican hopefuls will compete on the March primary ballot to replace longtime Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Madigan, a Democrat, announced in September that she would not seek reelection in 2018 after 14 years in office.
Republican party favorite Erika Harold has received $300,000 in donations from Gov. Bruce Rauner to help bolster her primary bid.
"I have found her to be a person of great talent, integrity and good will," Rauner said.
Harold, who was Miss Illinois in 2002 and Miss America in 2003, is a Champaign-Urbana attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School. She said she wants to attract new voters to the GOP.
"I’m a young, black woman running for office as a Republican," Harold said. "That’s certainly not what people would expect. But I’m also emphasizing issues like criminal justice reform. For the past 11 years, I’ve been on the board of directors for a group that does prison ministry and advocates for bipartisan criminal justice reform."
Harold opened up to WGN's Tahman Bradley about discrimination she’s faced. In an unsuccessful congressional bid in 2014, a GOP leader called Harold offensive names. This cycle, Harold said, a DuPage County Republican official called her the N-word.
"When I was in high school, [I was] the victim of racial and sexual harassment to the point that I had to transfer" schools, Howard said. "That experience made me feel very marginalized and powerless. But it also made me decide to become an attorney because I wanted to acquire the skills necessary not only to be able to stand up for myself, but also to be able to stand up for other people."
Opponent Gary Grasso said Harold doesn't have the record to do that.
"She’s never really litigated," Grasso said. "She’s been out of law school for over 10 years. She’s never tried a case. The attorney general is a litigation-based office. How is she going to supervise? Where is she going to get respect from people who are in the trenches? I’ve done it."
Grasso also pointed to the fact that Harold has no administrative experience.
"She can’t do this job," he said. "The people should not elect her to do this job based on her record. The people should elect me based on my record. ... They say she’s electable, people will cross over. Tell us why that is. There’s no real substance to these so-called endorsements, so-called electability. This is a law job."
Grasso is a member of the DuPage County Board and former mayor of Burr Ridge. He said he wants to prioritize fighting the opioid crisis and go after people who make money off the state’s property tax assessment system.
"There’s already enough evidence out there," Grosso said. "You’ve seen the media exposés. There’s certainly what we would say is enough evidence for a prima facie case."
Harold has come under fire for an anti-gay comment she made during a 2000 Miss Illinois campaign. Harold was asked whether she would choose to place a foster child in a stable same-sex home or an abusive heterosexual home. She chose the latter.
"It was a different era and I was wrong with my prior position," Harold said. "Right now we live in an era where I think lots of people have evolved. And I strongly support same-sex adoption and same-sex foster parenting."
Despite their differences, both candidates said the state needs a Republican attorney general to check powerful Democratic elected officials.
This is Part 10 of a 10-part series where WGN profiles the candidates running for office.