On Jan. 11, Nancy Rotering appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general in the March 2018 primary:
I’m Nancy Rotering. I’m running for attorney general of Illinois. I’m currently the mayor of Highland Park in my second term and my civic and legislative background include a couple of years on the city council before becoming the first woman mayor of Highland Park. Prior to that, I’ve served on the city’s plan commission and environmental commission. But, before all of that, I was a strong community volunteer working on public safety, working on environmental advocacy and helping to ensure that children with chronic illnesses in schools had sufficient representation to make sure that they could stay in the classroom.
My specific cause, It’s important that we recognize that we are a city, a state, a nation in crisis. For me, I believe we need to really focus more on gun violence prevention. We in Highland Park banned assault weapons and were taken to the United States Supreme Court and we prevailed. It’s now constitutional to ban these weapons of war in Illinois. Yet, the Illinois General Assembly has failed to allow other cities to have that opportunity. That’s an opportunity that the attorney general can use as a platform to move forward. Not only to address the issues of crime but also safety, the economic impact and the very fact that people in Illinois deserve to be safe in their streets and in their neighborhoods.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Illinois attorney general a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Nancy Rotering submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: The Illinois attorney general has broad discretion in choosing the office’s priorities. What specific cause or causes would you pursue? Please avoid a generic topic or general category in your answer.
ANSWER: It has never been more important to have an independent, principled, and effective leader serving as Attorney General, for the sake of both our state and our nation. I will bring a lifetime of advocacy and a record of producing results to the Attorney General’s office.
In addition to continuing the critical work of the Attorney General’s Office in the areas of consumer protection, environmental protection, immigration rights, crime victim advocacy, and standing up for labor and working families, specific initiatives I would pursue as IL Attorney General include:
Acting as a powerful advocate by continuing my fight against the NRA to enact and enforce common sense gun violence prevention solutions.
Fighting for criminal justice reform, restoring human rights and public safety to our impacted communities.
Standing up against sexual harassment and working to change the laws so that survivors can come forward without fear of retaliation and serial offenders are prosecuted. As Attorney General, I will be a fierce advocate calling for necessary changes to protect survivors and end cycles of abuse.
Pursuing action against online and off-shore pharmacies in an effort to curb access to opioids, while working to increase access to mental health and addiction recovery resources.
Providing open and honest government via additional resources for the Public Access Counselor, as well as education and accountability for improved government ethics and transparency across all levels of government.
In light of the direction of the current President and his administration, I would also continue to expand upon collaborative efforts with other states’ Attorneys General in fighting and stopping his destructive initiatives.
Running for: Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general
Political/civic background: Two-term Mayor, City of Highland Park, IL (2011-Present)
Council Member, City of Highland Park, IL (2009-2011)
Precinct 222 Democratic Committeeman (2006-present)
Founder and Acting Chair, Highland Park/Highwood Legal Aid Clinic
Founder, Community – the Anti-Drug
Founder, Leadership Alliance of Lake County
Founder, Highland Park Environmental Education Program
Founder, Highland Park Human Services Task Force
Member, Local Government Advisory Board – Illinois Comptroller
Board Member: Planned Parenthood, Highland Park Healthcare Foundation, Northwestern University Women’s Health Research Institute Advisory Board (Chair), Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (former President), Ravinia Festival Women’s Board; Former Board Member: Lurie Children’s Hospital Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Actively involved in many organizations including: Northwest Municipal Conference Legislative Committee, Northwestern University Leadership Council, Personal PAC, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, and Highland Park-Highwood Rotary
Occupation: Mayor, City of Highland Park
Education: Stanford University, BA Economics
Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management), MBA
University of Chicago Law School, JD
Campaign website: NancyRotering.com
QUESTION: What would you do as attorney general to identify and combat public corruption at the state, county and local levels?
ANSWER: As a two-term Mayor, I shook up City Hall with a major reform of city government that resulted in transparency, accessibility, collaboration, and ethical accountability. The cost of corruption is not only a lack of trust by constituents, but also a diminished ability for the government to do its job. It should not be tolerated, and must be addressed head-on.
While the Attorney General’s Office currently has limited jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption, a number of options can be pursued, such as a coordinated effort between the Attorney General and the Comptroller, as implemented in New York.
Additionally, I would work to increase resources to the Public Access Counselor, supporting watchdog activities, enforcement and education of the public and local governments. Too often, local governments fail to recognize the critical importance of public access to information and the role that access plays in improved representation.
The Attorney General must act as the statewide monitor for compliance with standards of fair and open government backed up by a commitment to pursue litigation and seek real penalties as necessary. I will bring the same dedication to transparency, ethics and principled leadership that I have maintained as a Mayor to the Office of Illinois Attorney General.
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QUESTION: Why have the people of Illinois had to rely solely on federal prosecutors, with little or no contribution from the state attorney general’s office, to do the job of rooting out local public corruption? Or do you disagree with this assessment?
ANSWER: Like many other states, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has limited jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption. That obstacle notwithstanding, steps can be taken to highlight the issue, collaborate with whistleblowers, and coordinate with federal prosecutors, who bring vital skills and resources to corruption investigation and prosecution.
The Illinois Attorney General has tools in place that can provide prompt, effective responses that may stop local public corruption before it rises to the level that requires federal intervention. As a Mayor who works with other local governments and serves on the Comptroller’s Local Government Advisory Board, I know the critical value of public education and utilization of the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, tools that can diminish corruption by shining light on government procedures and operations. A State-based response to local corruption provides a good starting point for reviewing gaps and omissions that unintentionally provide cover for corrupt activities, improving efficiencies while restoring the public’s trust.
QUESTION: What is the responsibility of the attorney general’s office in supporting and enforcing federal laws and the policies of the Trump administration? Please be specific in identifying any laws or policies you believe should or should not be rigorously enforced.
ANSWER: As Illinois Attorney General, I will continue to be a strong watchdog, protecting our rights against Trump’s radical agenda that continuously strives to roll back established protections. As a two-term Mayor, I have a proven record of fighting against the NRA, providing access to justice for women fleeing domestic violence as well as Dreamers and their families battling deportation. I have stood up for consumers’ rights, fought for equality for our LGBTQ communities, advocated for access to health care and reproductive choice, and spoken out against attacks on our environment. I will bring the same fight and conviction to the Office of Attorney General and will always be unyielding in my commitment to protect what is right.
We cannot blindly support and enforce the policies of the Trump administration. Attorneys General around the country have a very important role to play in stopping the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back civil and human rights. For example, it was Attorneys General around the country, who have rightfully stood up against the Muslim ban, fought efforts to diminish the Affordable Care Act, and worked to preserve environmental protections. I am committed to being an Attorney General who isn’t afraid to fight back against unlawful and unconstitutional policies initiated at the federal level.
QUESTION: Attorney General Madigan joined an amicus brief in a federal suit opposing the Trump administration’s efforts to cut off federal public safety grants to “sanctuary” cities. Would you have done the same? Madigan also has called on Gov. Rauner to reject any request by the Trump administration to use local law enforcement officers as “immigration officials.” What would you have done?
ANSWER: As Attorney General, I would support and join the coordinated effort against President Trump’s push to punish cities that decline to assist federal immigration enforcement. Local police departments should not be forced to undermine the trust they hold within their local communities to advance Trump’s immigration agenda. So many of our immigrants are living in fear and need to know that public safety is accessible to them. By requiring that local law enforcement officers serve as immigration enforcement officers, that opportunity for public safety is lost. In particular, vastly higher rates of domestic violence affect our immigrant communities due to survivors’ fears of deportation following requests for help. Lives are at stake because of this administration’s efforts to use and abuse local law enforcement.
Comprehensive immigration reform that supports our economic goals and reflects our values as both a nation of law and immigrants is long overdue. The United States is the great nation that it is because of the generations of immigrants who have strengthened our country and contributed to our economy. Our future depends on an immigration system that reflects our values and meets America’s needs. But Americans know that today our immigration system is badly broken. It separates families, undermines honest employers and workers, burdens law enforcement, and leaves millions of people who have long ties in the community working and living in the shadows.
As a Mayor, I have joined with my fellow mayors across the country via the US Conference of Mayors calling for fair, comprehensive immigration reform. I have been a tireless advocate for our immigrant families and created a local legal aid clinic to actively help our residents on their paths to citizenship. I believe that at every level of American society, people of all backgrounds contribute to our democracy, culture, and economy. We must advance the fundamental rights and principles upon which the United States was founded, recognizing the equality and dignity of all people regardless of their backgrounds.
QUESTION: What would you do to address the problem of gun violence? And if you say you would “take on” the NRA, how exactly would you do that?
ANSWER: As a Mayor, I led the charge to pass one of the state’s only local assault weapon and large capacity ammunition magazine bans. In 2013, Illinois cities had a ten-day window of opportunity to consider passing an assault weapon ban. As a mother of four sons, I felt strongly that this ban was an important step in the effort to address the heartbreak we continue to experience in the wake of Sandy Hook and so many other mass shootings. We fought the NRA all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and prevailed. Because of our city’s ban and the results of the related lawsuit by the NRA, it is now constitutional to ban assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in Illinois.
Unfortunately, Illinois law no longer recognizes that cities have this right, as the ten-day window has passed. Recently, I wrote a letter to every member of the Illinois General Assembly (the “ILGA”) asking them to consider amending the law to allow Illinois cities to have that conversation, to consider whether they want to allow assault weapons in their cities. I received no responses.
In the last legislative session, an opportunity to address illegal handguns on our streets and in our neighborhoods was supposed to come up in the form of gun dealer licensing legislation, something a majority of Illinois residents support. Some legislators said they wouldn’t address it until after petitions were filed for re-election. They feared being “primaried.” Again, the ILGA missed an opportunity to take action to start addressing the gun violence issue in Chicago. Clearly, too many were more concerned with saving their jobs than saving lives. I asked that question of them as well. No answer.
I would use the platform of the Attorney General to continue to exhort our elected general assembly members to work on behalf of the health, safety, and welfare of our people and enact reasonable gun violence prevention laws. I would also explore the possibility of a lawsuit under the Illinois Human Rights Act, that failure to take action to reduce gun violence, is a failure to promote the public health, welfare and safety of all people of Illinois. 775 ILCS 5/1-102(E).
As elected representatives, it is our collective responsibility to do everything we can to stop the carnage. Banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines is one common sense action, but additional steps need to be taken to reduce gun violence and protect our communities. The time is long past due for closing gun show loopholes and requiring universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers to hold accountable the bad apple dealers who look the other way as straw purchases are made; and safe storage in homes. I am reminded of the words of my friend and mentor, the late Hon. Ab Mikva: “An efficient system could instantly determine whether a proposed firearms purchase was legal, and then register the sale. It need not impose any meaningful burden on the right to keep and bear arms. This system would, however, put a serious crimp in gun theft, gun crime and gun-running. There is nothing unconstitutional about that.” One piece of legislation is not going to prevent every gun violence tragedy, but with courageous leadership, we can take steps to protect lives.
In addition, as Attorney General I would join Democratic attorneys general in calling on Congress to abandon concealed carry reciprocity legislation backed by the NRA, which allows concealed-carry gun regulations from one state to be valid in all states.
Also, I would work with law enforcement to ensure that repeat offenders are truly penalized. Our current system lacks the resources to sufficiently track guns used in crimes, let alone prosecute offenders. Specifically, the Tiahrt Amendments severely restrict law enforcement efforts to prevent gun crimes and prosecute offenders, and a coordinated effort with other Attorneys General could move Congress to further allow access for critical gun violence data.
No parent should have to worry about sending a child to school, the park or the movie theater. Gun violence in our nation has created an unnecessary culture of fear and grief. No other civilized nations suffer from the extreme amount of gun violence that we experience in the United States. With courage and coordinated advocacy, further steps to reduce violence can be taken.
QUESTION: Everybody running for this office promises to be an advocate for ordinary people. What, in concrete terms, does that mean?
ANSWER: Our state and our country are in crisis. An effective Attorney General must have proven experience in identifying opportunities for advocacy, defining solutions, pulling together resources, and taking action. I have always had the courage to stand up for what is right.
As a two-term Mayor, I have served in executive office, balancing seven budgets and maintaining a Aaa bond rating, but also passing one of the only assault weapon bans in the State of Illinois, taking on a major utility company, protecting our environment, founding a legal aid clinic to provide access to justice in immigration, housing and domestic violence matters, supporting and enacting inclusive legislation, and increasing government transparency, accountability and ethics. As a community volunteer, I have decades of experience promoting access to health care and reproductive choice, taking action against sexual harassment, supporting mental health care, and improving access to human services.
It has never been more important to have an independent, principled, and effective leader serving as Attorney General, for the sake of both our state and our nation. I am fighter who will bring a lifetime of advocacy and a record of producing results to the Attorney General’s office, unafraid to take on extremists in Washington and Springfield. An advocate for the people must know how to use the tools available: persuasiveness for new legislation, education to empower the public, and a willingness to take legal action where warranted.
As a working mom of four sons and a Mayor, I understand the issues that are important to our families and our communities. After nearly nine years in elected office, I know what it takes to represent my constituents: a willing ear, a fair assessment, and honest, responsive action.
QUESTION: How in general would you follow or depart from the approach to the job taken by Lisa Madigan?
ANSWER: It is crucial to continue the legacy of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in the areas of consumer protection, environmental protection, immigration rights, crime victim advocacy, and standing up for labor and working families. Additionally, her collaboration with other Attorneys General has been an important bulwark against the destructive efforts of the Trump administration. Her work in all of these respects has been impactful and has served the people of Illinois well.
I believe, however, the role of the office does need to expand. Specifically, resources and priorities need to also focus on criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, public corruption, and the opioid crisis.
Legislation is also needed to strengthen the office’s role in fighting sexual harassment. These actions will include a push for Springfield to amend the Human Rights Act to apply to all employers, regardless of size and function, as well as the creation of a confidential hotline. On behalf of the people of our State, serial harassers need to be prosecuted to stop repeated discrimination and harassment.
Attorney General Madigan has created a number of impactful and creative initiatives in order to meet national, statewide, and local needs. Building upon her leadership in advocacy is vital to meeting the needs of the people of Illinois.
Check out our profiles on other candidates in this race: