In announcing her candidacy for Illinois Attorney General Tuesday, Sharon Fairley – who abruptly left her job as chief administrator of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability – stressed that she’d use the office to root out public corruption.
At a news conference in the Loop, Fairley sidestepped the opportunity to comment on whether she thinks current Attorney General Lisa Madigan has done enough to combat crooked politicians.
“I think Lisa did a tremendous job,” she said. “And I look forward to taking all that she built and then building on top of that to achieve even more.”
Madigan has been criticized for staying on the corruption-busting sidelines during her long tenure in office, despite making campaign promises to hold politicians accountable, even if it meant investigating her dad, powerful Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Lisa Madigan announced last month that she will not be seeking a fifth term in office.
Fairley also took a moment to say thanks to Lisa Madigan, who gave Fairley her first job out of law school as an assistant attorney general.
To win the election, Fairley admitted she’d need a broad coalition of support.
Asked if that support would include Mike Madigan, who’s also chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, Fairly said: “That’s possible. Possible.” She also sidestepped whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel would be in her corner.
“I expect backing from a lot of people. I’m working on all that and that’s all going to play out in the next few weeks,” she said.
Fairley, in a question and answer session with reporters, pointed to her resume to burnish her corruption busting credentials.
After leaving Madigan’s office, she worked as a federal prosecutor.
“I was raised, I kind of cut my teeth as a lawyer at the U.S. Attorney’s office here in Chicago, which is probably the preeminent office that deals with public corruption,” she said.
She left that job in 2015 to join the city’s Office of the Inspector General as first deputy and general counsel.
“I committed myself to rooting out government corruption by taking the job … so this is a really important thing for me,” she said.
Although Fairley does not have statewide name recognition, she came to be known in Chicago for the role she played in reforming police accountability in the wake of Laquan McDonald’s death.
Amid a public uproar over McDonald’s death, Emanuel tapped her to lead the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) — an agency that investigated police misconduct. She was later appointed to head up COPA, the agency that replaced IPRA.
She resigned from that job last week to focus on the campaign.
“While there is still more work to do, the new agency stands at the ready to combat police misconduct while also rebuilding public trust,” she said.
Fairley also said that if elected she’d aggressively push back against the administration of President Donald Trump.
“Today our civil rights are under siege. Our next attorney general must defend our people and our local governments against the Trump administration’s regressive and unconstitutional attacks. We must defend the very rights that our grandparents and parents fought for. The right to vote. The right to earn a decent living, to be able to travel our streets without being stopped by the police unnecessarily.”
“For me this pursuit of justice is deeply personal. I’m a mom. I have two young adult children and I worry about their safety. As any black mother worries today when we know that something as simple as a traffic stop can end in tragedy.”
The election will be held in November of next year.
Other Democratic candidates include state Sen. Kwame Raoul and state Rep. Scott Drury.