In a crowded race, AG candidates stake out positions on guns, Trump and Madigan

SHARE In a crowded race, AG candidates stake out positions on guns, Trump and Madigan

Illinois Attorney General candidates participated in a forum held Thursday, Feb. 22 at the James R. Thompson Center. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

For 15 years, Illinois Democratic voters haven’t had much of a selection for attorney general, with Lisa Madigan facing little real opposition in four successful runs for the post.

But when they look at the ballot on Tuesday, they’ll see a list of eight candidates vying to replace Madigan, who announced last year that she would not seek another term.

Polls show former Gov. Pat Quinn leading the field with roughly 25 percent of the vote, based largely on the name recognition that comes with having run twice for governor and having been on the statewide ballot 10 times since 1986.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan | Sun-Times file photo

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan | Sun-Times file photo

Trailing with around 20 percent support is state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who has received backing from state Democratic organizations, labor unions and a bevy of party regulars.

None of the other half-dozen candidates have support that reached double-digits, according to a poll released last week by the CapitolFax blog and We Ask America — but more than 40 percent of voters remained undecided.

Given the field of candidates and the uncertainty of two out of five voters, the Chicago Sun-Times is offering a rundown of the candidates based on the issues that have emerged.

Gun Control

As the state’s top lawyer, an AG could conceivably attempt litigation against gunmakers or use their bully pulpit to lobby for legislation restricting firearms.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering has made the issue a cornerstone of her campaign. Rotering in 2013 led Highland Park’s push to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, a local ordinance that was challenged in court and remained on the books after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 refused to take up the case.

Raoul sponsored legislation last year that toughened penalties for defendants convicted of repeat gun offenses.

Trump & political corruption

All eight Democratic contenders have pledged to fight policies coming from the White House, and as the state’s top litigator, an assessor will have ample opportunity to challenge the Trump administration’s policies in court on issues such as immigration enforcement or LGBTQ rights.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti was criticizing President Donald Trump even before campaigning. Mariotti has become a frequent guest on television news shows, parsing the latest developments in the Robert Mueller’s and frequently slams the administration.

RELATED: Chicago Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide

Jesse Ruiz points out that he’s been a position to call out political corruption in both his roles as a member of the Chicago Public School Board, where he replaced Barbara Byrd Bennett as interim CEO. Now the president of the Chicago Park District Board, Ruiz also points out that he called for Byrd Bennett’s successor as full-time CPS chief, Forrest Claypool, to resign after it was revealed that Claypool committed an ethics violation.

Consumer rights

Defending consumers from scams and fraud was a hallmark of Madigan’s time as AG, and all the candidates have said they intend to continue to emphasize the office’s role as the state’s top consumer advocate.

Quinn has made defending taxpayers and consumers the main thrust of his campaign, citing his veto of legislation that would have allowed power utilities to hike rates and assailing Raoul for the $60,000 that has flowed to Raoul’s campaign from utility company executives.

Criminal justice reform

The next attorney general will play a pivotal role in reshaping the Chicago Police Department as Madigan closed an agreement with the city to enact a federal consent decree.

Sharon Fairley’s previous job as head of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority – a post to which she was appointed in the aftermath of the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video – would have unique insight into the changes the department needs to respond to a scathing review by the Justice Department that found a pattern of racist and unconstitutional practices in CPD operations.

Aaron Goldstein, an Assistant Cook County Public Defender, devotes the largest share of his website to outlining his position on reforming the system, supporting recent legislative efforts to eliminate cash bond, decrying cash bond and supporting the legalization of marijuana.

The other Madigan

Lisa Madigan might have been the state’s most popular Democrat, but her father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, is surely the most reviled. The candidates to replace Lisa Madigan have largely steered away from connecting themselves to the powerful South Side pol.

Scott Drury, a former federal prosecutor and state rep from the northwest suburbs, can say he voted against Madigan— sort of— remaining as speaker. Drury voted “present” last year, when Madigan was vying for his record 17th term as speaker, the only member of the caucus who didn’t give Madigan a “yes” vote.

The Latest
As a photographer for the Associated Press, Gene Herrick photographed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the men accused of killing Emmett Till. He also covered Major League Baseball, Elvis Presley and five U.S. presidents.
A 49-year-old man was in the 2800 block of North Cannon Avenue when a man walked up to him with a gun. The victim grabbed the gun and it went off, wounding him in the torso, police say.
A 46-year-old motorcyclist was traveling north in the 5500 block of South Pulaski Road when a woman in a Chevy SUV turned left and collided with the man, police said. He died at a hospital, authorities say.