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Attorney General candidates spar over same-sex adoption, campaign ads

Video by Colin Boyle and Eliza Davidson

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, the Democratic candidate for Illinois Attorney General, on Tuesday tried to paint his Republican challenger as an inexperienced litigator with shifty views on same-sex marriage and adoption — while Erika Harold offered rebukes of the Democrat’s accusations and vowed not to use the post to “punish political opponents.”

Raoul, Harold and Libertarian candidate Bubba Harsy appeared before the Sun-Times Editorial Board on Tuesday in an appearance that at times resembled a debate with just seven weeks to go before the November election.

Both Raoul and Harold took issue with their opponent’s critical ads on constant rotation on TV right now. Raoul has run three ads which claim Harold said at age 19 that she’d prefer a child be placed in a foster home with abusive straight parents over being placed in a home with a “loving gay couple.” The comments were allegedly made during a closed-door interview with Harold, who was a Miss Illinois contestant, according to a story on NBC5 that cited three unnamed sources.

Harold’s campaign initially said she did not recall making those comments and says she now supports same-sex couples being able to adopt and being able to be foster parents. She noted the ads had been rated “false” by Politifact.

On Tuesday she demanded Raoul stop running the ads. Does Raoul still believe she won’t support same-sex couples?

“I absolutely do because …” Raoul responded.

“So you actually believe that that is what I currently believe. Based on what evidence?” Harold interjected.

For his part, Raoul accused Harold of changing her mind on same-sex marriage in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality.

“Right now there’s a Supreme Court Justice that is being considered to replace the pivotal voice in the marriage equality case,” Raoul said. “So the Supreme Court’s stance on marriage equality could change … if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed. So if her changing position is based on the Supreme Court’s decision, not on her own conviction, not on her own personal views which she has historically said does not matter, I feel uncomfortable with that.”

Sun-Times Editorial Board editor Tom McNamee asked Harold if her views about same-sex marriage and adoption would change should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn marriage equality.

“Of course not,” Harold said.

Raoul — who has been a legislator for 14 years — has nearly $3 million in his campaign coffers, and is backed by Democratic heavy hitters and unions, including gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, who pitched in $1 million on Sept. 4. Harold — a Harvard University-educated attorney and former Miss America — has about $1.9 million in her campaign fund, records show. Gov. Bruce Rauner contributed $1.3 million to her campaign last month.

Harsy said he’s running because Democrats and Republicans haven’t provided an attorney general “to protect my interests pretty much my entire life.” Harsy said he’d “legitimately hold the government accountable for their bad acts.”

Video by Eliza Davidson and Colin Boyle Republican Erika Harold, Democrat Kwame Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy are seeking y

WATCH: Republican nominee Erika Harold, Democratic nominee Kwame Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy are seeking your vote to be the next Illinois attorney general. They were invited to meet with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board. The general election is Nov. 6.

The candidates were also asked whether they’d continue current Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s fight against Trump administration policies, such as net neutrality, environmental protection and predatory actions by for-profit education institutions.

Harold said she “would not hesitate to sue the federal government” if it had exceeded their scope of constitutional authority.

Raoul said he who would continue efforts by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and other Democratic attorneys general to challenge Trump.

“The role of the attorney general is more important right now than any time in American history because of the … attorneys generals role, collectively and individually stepping up, fighting against the federal government’s overreach,” Raoul said.

Raoul touted his years in the Legislature — and the legislation he’s helped to pass, including abolishing the death penalty — as part of experience he said his opponents don’t have.

When asked whether Harold would open an investigation into House Speaker Mike Madigan, Harold said she’d only open an investigation if she was brought evidence of any sort of public misconduct and it was within her jurisdiction. Rauner last month told reporters he donated the money because Harold “will prosecute Madigan and the corruption.”

“People have not given me evidence that he has broken the law. What I have seen in terms of the conflicts of interest laws that exist within our state, I believe they need to be expanded because not everything that is legal is ethical,” Harold said. “And I think our property tax assessment system and the conflicts of interest laws that permit people to be able to profit from their position, I think those need to be changed. But I would not use the office of attorney general to punish political opponents.”

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