Kwame Raoul declares victory in bid for second term as attorney general

A major criminal justice reform law, COVID-19 mandates and abortion were among the issues in the campaign.

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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul handles the ball during an Election Day pickup game with colleagues and friends at the ComEd Recreation Center at 1434 S. Loomis St on the Near West Side, Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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Kwame Raoul declared victory Tuesday night in his bid for a second term as Illinois attorney general, beating Tom DeVore, a small-town lawyer from southern Illinois.

“I’m your 42nd attorney general, and I’m going to serve as such for the next four years,” Raoul said in a speech to supporters.

DeVore conceded the race late in the night. “He ran a race like a gentleman,” DeVore said.

With 90% of the state’s precincts reporting, Raoul had about 54% of the vote to DeVore’s 43%. Libertarian candidate Daniel K. Robin had about 2%.

Democrat Raoul and Republican DeVore clashed over a number of issues, from criminal justice reform to COVID-19 mandates issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. DeVore brought lawsuits against the governor’s executive orders, including a mask mandate, saying Pritzker overreached his power and violated the constitution.

But the criminal justice overhaul known as the SAFE-T Act stirred much of the debate in the race, with Raoul supporting a core component ending cash bail and DeVore siding with dozens of state’s attorneys who have sued to block the act.

DeVore vowed he would not defend the law if elected attorney general.

Raoul said he firmly supports the end of cash bail, but said that legislators are likely to amend the controversial law when they return to Springfield later this month.

The lawsuits challenging the SAFE-T act have been consolidated in Kankakee County, where a judge has said he hopes to rule by the middle of December.

Raoul, 58, of Chicago, also promised to defend the state’s law protecting abortions in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

While DeVore insisted access to abortion was not at risk, it was a key issue among Raoul’s supporters at an election night celebration at Offshore Rooftop on Navy Pier.

Sofia Aranda, 22, said protecting abortion rights was one of the reasons she supported Raoul.

Another supporter wore a “resist, insist, persist” T-shirt.

At DeVore’s campaign watch party at the Drake Hotel Oak Brook, supporter Terri Appelhans said DeVore’s crusade against Pritzker’s orders on masks and vaccines appealed to her.

“Tom just really cared about our children,” said the St. Charles mother of two. “Nobody was standing up for them.”

DeVore, 53, from the tiny town of Sorento, also has encouraged parents to opt out of sex education for their children in K-12 schools.

Asked earlier Tuesday evening what he would do if he loses the race, DeVore, a relative newcomer to politics, said he will go back to practicing law.

“That’s just fine with me,” he said, holding a straight bourbon while circulating through his campaign watch party. “Politics is a nasty, ugly business. I don’t have any use for it from the Democrats or the Republicans.”

However, in conceding, he complimented Raoul, saying that “he ran a race like a gentleman.”

Raoul, the son of Haitian immigrants, was a state lawmaker for 14 years before winning his first race for attorney general four years ago.

He’s touted his accomplishments as a lawmaker and as the state’s top law officer, including a lawsuit filed along with other state attorneys general that extracted money from the biggest drug companies contributing to the opioid crisis.

Raoul, a cancer survivor and son of a family doctor, also has promised to continue fighting for health care access and consumer protection.

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