With 13 weeks till the primary election and Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s surprise decision not to seek re-election, Illinois voters have a crowded field of eight Democratic and two Republican candidates to choose from.
Though the Cook County Democratic Party last month crowned State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, as their choice, former Gov. Pat Quinn has secured the top ballot spot via a state lottery, which might help get him some votes. Raoul and Quinn are perhaps the most familiar names on the Democratic primary ballot.
In the Republican primary, Erika Harold — a Harvard-educated attorney and former Miss America who has the backing of the state’s Republican Party — faces Gary Grasso, a DuPage County Board member.
The state’s most expensive race ever for attorney general was in 2002. The candidates spent a collective $18 million that year, according to Sarah Brune, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Madigan spent the most, $9 million, with Joe Birkett next at $4 million.
In the current race, the overall tally so far stands at about $3 million. That includes money the candidates have raised and also contributions that they already had coming into the race.
Here’s a look at how the field is shaping up so far. The “available cash” category, compiled by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, is the amount the candidates had in their campaign funds as of Sept. 30 — plus any contributions of $1,000 or more since that time.
SCOTT DRURY:Former federal prosecutor turned state representative for the north suburban 58th District, which includes Lincolnshire, Deerfield, Highland Park and Lake Forest. Drury dropped out of the governor’s race to run for attorney general days after Madigan made her bombshell announcement in September that she wasn’t running. Drury was the only Democrat not to vote for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s election to a historic 17th term as speaker.
Available cash: $337,328.40.
Bottom line: Drury isn’t a popular guy in Springfield, and he’s vocal about that. He touts that as proof he’s not playing political games, that he is working for the public and not for other politicians or special interests. Drury was one of the first to criticize Springfield’s delayed response to allegations of sexual harassment and requested a special prosecutor to investigate the claims.
SHARON FAIRLEY: Former federal prosecutor and former chief administrator of the city of Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, which reviewed police shootings and allegations of misconduct. She led the agency’s overhaul into becoming the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
Available cash: $340,950.
Bottom line: A Maryland native who lives on the Southwest Side, known in Chicago for the role she played in helping to reform police accountability in the wake of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by a police officer. Fairley has said she would help root out corruption and push back against President Donald Trump.
AARON GOLDSTEIN: A former defense attorney for ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, elected last year as a Democratic Party committeeman, defeating Dick Mell, the former longtime Chicago alderman and political power player.
Available cash: $87,071.
Bottom line: Goldstein is known in Cook County Democratic Party circles, but he needs to get more statewide recognition — and cash.
RENATO MARIOTTI: A former federal prosecutor who has appeared extensively on national TV news shows as a legal commentator since President Donald Trump was elected.
Available cash: $143,506.
Bottom line: Mariotti has some name recognition from his frequent TV appearances and has a social media presence, but he’ll have to fight his way through a crowded field.
KWAME RAOUL: Former assistant Cook County prosecutor who won election to the state Senate in 2004 after being tapped to fill the vacancy left by future resident Barack Obama when Obama ran for the U.S. Senate.
Available cash: $598,478.
Bottom line:Raoul’s name has been in the mix for higher office for years. This time, he has the backing of the Cook County Democratic Party, a hefty campaign fund and years of experience as a senator. The Chicago native and son of Haitian immigrants says he’d fight Trump’s immigration policies.
NANCY ROTERING: As mayor of Highland Park, ushered in the country’s only local assault weapons ban and fought the National Rifle Association all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Available cash: $284,320.
Bottom line: Rotering — one of two women in the race — picked up a big endorsement from U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, who said she believes Rotering would continue to push back against the NRA and stand up for working families, immigrants, seniors and the LBGTQ community.
JESSE RUIZ: A Latino lawyer and president of the Chicago Park District board, previously led the Illinois State Board of Education and was vice president and interim CEO of the Chicago Board of Education
Available cash: $338,290.
Bottom line:The son of Mexican immigrants, Ruiz will likely pick up votes from Latinos worried about federal immigration policies. During his time with the Chicago Board of Education, he cast votes to close a record number of schools, as well as to approve $23 million in contracts that eventually sent the Chicago Public School’s CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to federal prison. Ruiz also replaced her as interim CEO after the scandal forced her out.
PAT QUINN: Former governor, has statewide recognition and has run for every statewide office except for comptroller. Having lost to Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2014, he has vowed to fight Trump and Rauner administration policies he doesn’t agree with.
Available cash: $234,491.
Bottom line: Quinn paints himself as the “everyday people” candidate. In vowing to take on Rauner policies, he’d be able to have somewhat of a rematch if he faced Harold — Rauner’s choice — in the general election. Quinn’s name being first on the ballot might help him as well.
GARY GRASSO: DuPage County Board member and a former mayor of Burr Ridge.
Available cash: $91,350.
Bottom line: Grasso might have a hard time competing with Harold’s lengthy list of endorsements and the funds that may come her way ahead of the primary.
ERIKA HAROLD: Harvard-educated attorney who used her winnings as Miss America to pay for law school. Harold is backed by the Illinois Republican Party, Rauner and dozens of Republican legislators.
Available cash: $175,897.
Bottom line: Harold is seen as a viable candidate for Republicans throughout the state, and endorsements that include Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and six of seven of Illinois’ congressional GOP delegation should help. If she faces Quinn and he chooses to target Rauner’s support for her, she’d likely get more campaign money.