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Lisa Madigan gets good reviews at Democrats’ AG debate — mostly

From left, Democratic hopefuls for Illinois attorney general Scott Drury, Sharon Fairley, Aaron Goldstein, Renato Mariotti, Pat Quinn, Kwame Raoul, Nancy Rotering and Jesse Ruiz. | James Foster / Sun-Times

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan got mostly favorable reviews from the eight Democrats running to replace her as they gathered Sunday for a debate co-hosted by the Chicago Sun-Times.

But some of the candidates who gathered at Cards Against Humanity for the livestreamed event also said Madigan should have been more aggressive when it comes to investigating public corruption.

The most critical among them was attorney Aaron Goldstein, who called her “competent but cautious.” He gave her a “C” when asked to grade her time in office and said she should have done more both about corruption and criminal justice reform.

“On many of the issues that I think we all care about, she’s been very cautious and really not stepped up,” Goldstein said.

In a statement after the event, Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said, “Attorney General Madigan has used the full powers of the office to protect the people of Illinois and expanded them. She has taken on big banks and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for Illinois homeowners, created the first-ever public access counselor to fight for transparency and government accountability, created a public integrity unit to prosecute public corruption, and undertaken civil rights work that no attorney general has tackled, such as reform of the Chicago Police Department.”

The candidates seeking Madigan’s job also found opportunities to fire shots at the likely Republican nominee for the office, Erika Harold. State Sen. Kwame Raoul complained that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner wants Harold to be loyal to his administration.

“That is not the job of the attorney general,” Raoul said. “The attorney general is to be loyal to the Constitution, to the laws of the state of Illinois, and most importantly to the people of the state of Illinois.”

The group also discussed the role of campaign contributions to attorney general candidates and how that could create future conflicts of interest. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said he has tried to run a campaign with average donations under $100.

But he said that’s only possible because of his large social media and TV following. He said “it’s an absolute shame” that to run such a campaign, “you have to be somebody like me, and you should be more outraged than you are.”

The debate — which also included Scott Drury, Sharon Fairley, Pat Quinn, Nancy Rotering and Jesse Ruiz — took place at the Cards Against Humanity office in partnership with the 2nd Ward Democrats and the 43rd Ward Democrats.

Veteran Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell and political reporter Tina Sfondeles asked questions of the candidates. Justin Kaufmann, host of The Download on WGN Radio, moderated.

Contributing: Alexandra Arriaga

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