It’s a new era for attorneys general in states across the nation as they step up to fight for the environment, workers’ rights, access to health care, consumer protections, and a free and open internet.
Illinois’ next attorney general will have to take the lead in these battles and others, countering the retrograde policies of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Kwame Raoul, the Democratic candidate for Illinois attorney general, gets our endorsement. We believe he is the best qualified — and most inclined — candidate to lead the charge, following in the footsteps of Lisa Madigan, who is retiring from the office. Raoul’s Republican opponent, Erika Harold, has signaled far less enthusiasm for taking on such important broader issues.
We should note one exception to that. In a recent interview with the Sun-Times Editorial Board, Harold expressed strong support for a lawsuit Madigan filed in July that argues the U.S. Justice Department violated federal law by refusing to turn over $6.5 million in taxpayer money to support law enforcement in Illinois.
The federal money has been withheld because Illinois in 2017 enacted a law called the Trust Act, which bars law enforcement officers from arresting people solely on the basis of their immigration status. We respect Harold for taking a stand against the Trump administration.
But there are a wealth of other major lawsuits, as well, that Madigan has filed — or joined — that Illinois’ next attorney general must be prepared to carry on with. And newly urgent matters — also requiring a full appreciation of the office’s broader powers — are sure to come along.
Madigan has sued to stop the separation of families at the U.S. border, to reinstate energy efficiency standards for home appliances such as fans and air conditioners, and to prevent young adults who were brought to our country illegally as young children from being deported.
Action by state attorneys general, including Madigan, also recently stopped the Trump administration from permitting designs for untraceable, homemade 3D-printed guns to be distributed online.
Raoul has demonstrated the ability to work effectively on a wide range of big issues.
A state senator since 2004, he took the lead in a successful effort to abolish the state’s death penalty. He effectively advocated for re-opening cases of imprisoned men who said they were convicted on the basis of statements extracted through police torture. He has been a strong voice for voters’ and workers’ rights, access to better health care, criminal justice reform and consumer protection — all issues that matter greatly to the people of Illinois.
Moreover, at a time when scientists are sounding the alarm that government at all levels must take action against climate change, Raoul has been an environmental advocate.
As a state senator, he championed the right of residents to challenge environmental permits in court when a proposed project in their neighborhood threatens their personal health and property.
He helped enact the Future Energy Jobs Act to foster the creation of thousands of jobs in the green economy. The act requires that energy produced by fossil fuels be produced more efficiently, which would reduce harmful emissions, and provides financial incentives for the production of wind and solar energy.
As attorney general, Raoul pledges he would improve transparency by increasing funding for the office’s Public Access Counselor, a position created by legislation. The aim is to reduce red tape for Freedom of Information Act requests and complaints about violations of the Open Meetings Act. He also would beef up enforcement of labor law violations, such as wage theft, when employers don’t pay the full amount a worker is owed.
The attorney general is Illinois’ top lawyer. He or she is also the state’s top consumer advocate and the point person in representing ratepayers when utilities ask for rate changes. Raoul has the skills and experience to defend us well.
Libertarian candidate Bubba Harsy also is running.
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Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.