It’s a criticism Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has endured for years, but now, a top Democrat running for her post says there’s “nothing wrong” with elected officials having family ties.
Shortly after announcing his run for attorney general, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, told the Chicago Sun-Times the backlash Madigan has undergone because of her father, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, is “insulting” to her individual record of accomplishments.
Raoul also took a shot at Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is expected to financially back the Republican candidate for attorney general, Erika Harold.
Raoul, 52, is a former assistant Cook County prosecutor who won his state Senate seat in 2004 after being tapped to fill the vacancy left by President Barack Obama when Obama ran for the U.S Senate. In the state Senate, Raoul has been commended for his work on criminal justice reforms, including sponsoring legislation to abolish the death penalty.
“There’s nothing wrong with someone who’s a child of an elected [official] seeking out their own elected office,” Raoul said. “I think the focus that the governor and others have put on this, dragging names through the mud instead of policy, instead of getting things done, while we’ve had an almost three-year impasse on the budget is shameful. We shouldn’t be talking about individuals. We should be talking about issues and getting this done on behalf of taxpayers.”
Raoul said he spoke with Lisa Madigan on the phone on Friday, the day she made the bombshell announcement that she wasn’t running. Raoul said the outgoing attorney general said she’d be “willing to talk about the functions of the office” and offer him “insight.”
“I appreciated that gesture,” Raoul said, while noting he did not ask for her support or endorsement.
The Chicago native and son of Haitian immigrants also said he’ll fight President Donald Trump on immigration issues should he win the job as the state’s top law enforcement official.
“I will not use the attorney general’s office to carry out the policies of this president,” Raoul said of Trump. “And I value the contributions that immigrants can make.”
On Day One of his campaign, the state senator is already fighting back against criticism over his “temperament” on a WVON interview on Tuesday, as well as comments he made to the State-Journal Register about Harold.
Referring to Harold as “Miss America,” Raoul said he didn’t believe Madigan dropped out because of “any fear of Erika Harold.” And in the WVON interview, Raoul and host Maze Jackson locked horns as Jackson repeatedly implored Raoul to “answer the question.”
“You’re not going to tell me. All right. If you interrupt me, I’m gonna check you on it,” Raoul said, eventually telling the WVON host “If you want to have that type of conversation, Maze, there’s another place where we can have that type of conversation.”
Both incidents had the Republican Attorneys General Association attacking Raoul — accusing him of “lacking the temperament and disposition” to be attorney general.
Asked about the comments, Raoul said he’s a “human being like anybody else.”
“I’m a fighter and I think whomever we elect to be attorney general needs to be a fighter,” Raoul said of the radio interview, while adding the two apologized to each other after the interview. He said he also called co-host and former political reporter Charles Thomas on Tuesday: “We had a very pleasant exchange.”
And Raoul said he would “rewind the tape” on his Harold comment if he could.
“I think Erika Harold has exceptional credentials,” Raoul said. “If I could rewind the tape and not make reference to that certainly I would, but I’m ready to march onto a campaign and if she is the nominee, I look forward to talking about the issues.”
Harold is a Harvard-educated former Miss America and unsuccessful Downstate congressional candidate. She’s already receiving a bevy of Republican endorsements and is expected to gain heavy financial footing from Rauner and his Republican party.
In announcing his campaign, Raoul pledged “to ensure that justice in Illinois is blind, never discriminating between city, suburban and Downstate, between brown, black and white or between rich and poor.”
“I’ve spent my entire professional life as an advocate,” Raoul said in a video announcing his run. “The attorney general’s office gives me a credible platform to do just that for the citizens throughout the state of Illinois.”
Raoul’s decision is no surprise. His name has been in the mix for higher position for years.
Madigan’s announcement last week that she would not seek a fifth term opened the floodgates to many who have been eying the influential post for years.
Raoul is the second Democrat to announce a run. Rep. Scott Drury, who had been running for governor, switched gears on Tuesday, becoming the first Democrat to announce a campaign for attorney general.
Others are still mulling whether to jump in, including State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook.
She tweeted Wednesday that she and her family would reach a decision over the Jewish holidays.