Decision 2018: In-Depth Look at the Candidates
CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stunned the political world in September when she announced she would not seek a fifth term in 2018. High-profile state politicians immediately started angling for the job.
Now eight Democrats are on the primary ballot for Illinois Attorney General. The hopefuls have spent recent months discussing how they’ll stand up to President Donald Trump, battle public corruption and protect consumers.
The most familiar face in the race is former Governor Pat Quinn.
Quinn started out as an activist before being elected Illinois treasurer, then lieutenant governor. His nearly 40-year career in politics came to an end in 2014 when he lost a re-election bid to current Gov. Bruce Rauner.
But Quinn doesn’t see this race as his shot at redemption.
“I don’t believe in that kind of politics,” Quinn said. “I think it’s important to always strengthen the voters, find ways to help everyday people. One of the reasons I’m running is to be a fighter for everyday taxpayers, especially folks with homes that aren’t getting a fair shake. I’m not afraid of anybody in the Cook County government. When they break the law, they’ve got to be brought to justice.”
A recent poll placed Quinn slightly behind another well known opponent, state Senator Kwame Raoul.
“Law enforcement reform, criminal justice reform — [my opponents] talk about this generally, but I talk about this from the standpoint of having passed numerous bills focused on criminal justice reform, numerous bills focused on law enforcement,” Raoul said.
The Cook County Democratic Party endorsed Raoul last summer, and Raoul has remained loyal to party Chairman Joe Berrios. In fact, the state senator is the only candidate who hasn’t called for the embattled assessor to step down.
“I think the voters have the capacity to make their [own] decision,” Raoul said.
Throughout his campaign, Raoul has feuded with Chicago Park District President Jesse Ruiz over campaign contributions — going as far as to call Ruiz “a serial liar.”
Ruiz is an attorney and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools who once studied in law school under President Barack Obama, then a professor. Years ago, the future president told Ruiz he thought he’d see Ruiz’ name on a ballot one day.
“I worked on his [Obama’s] campaigns,” Ruiz said. “So when his book [Dreams From My Father] came out in the summer of ’95 … that’s when he told me I’m going to get into politics.”
The former head of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, Sharon Fairley, is also making her case.
Her public safety agenda includes rebuilding relationships between police and communities. WGN’s Tahman Bradley talked to Fairley about her work reforming police oversight.
“As the chief administrator,” Fairley said, “I went to the scene of officer-involved shootings. I’ve seen up front and personal the impact, the devastation, that these incidents have on our communities. That’s another reason I’m sitting before you today. You can’t have seen what I’ve seen and not be personally affected by it and want to make change.”
In the months following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, another candidate, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, implemented an assault weapons ban in her city.
“It seemed like the right time to take a stand and say: Enough is enough,” Rotering said. “We don’t need these weapons in our city. So we did pass the ban.”
Gun safety is high on her agenda.
“It’s got to be a priority,” Rotering said. “We’re seeing so much devastation and violence in the city of Chicago. Even in cities like Danville, where 30,000 people live, there were 10 homicides last year.”
Aaron Goldstein, the 33rd Ward Democratic committeeman, is highlighting criminal justice reform. He gained attention in 2016 when he was elected to his post.
“I defeated a longtime machine politician in Dick Meld who basically reigned over the 33rd Ward for the last 40 years when no one thought I could do it,” Goldstein said.
State Representative Scott Drury says he’ll crusade against patronage and corruption. Drury has raised his profile by criticizing Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also serves as state party chair.
“I think he should step down as both,” Drury said. “I mean, I think he’s just overstepped his welcome and lost the trust of the public. You can’t govern if people don’t trust you. My whole career, my whole campaign, has been about earning public trust.”
The final Democratic candidate is former prosecutor and anti-Trump TV pundit Renato Mariotti. As a first-time candidate, Mariotti says it’s been difficult to raise money — even though his fundraiser-in-chief on Twitter is his Bernese Mountain Dog, Bear.
“I think what I’ve learned is how challenging it is to keep up with the special interest money in this race,” Mariotti said. “For every $20 I get online for somebody who likes looking at my dog or likes my ideas about Trump, I am trying to keep up with six-figure checks that are going to my opponent.”
There are two Republicans running for Illinois Attorney General in the March primary: Erika Harold and Gary Grasso. Learn more about them on WGN News next week.
This is Part 4 of a 10-Part series where WGN profiles the candidates running for office.