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Quinn may be called ‘Gov. Quinn,’ but Raoul called county Dems AG pick

State Sen. Kwame Raoul makes his pitch for Illinois Attorney General during the Cook County Democratic endorsement sessions in 2017. | Logan Javage/For the Sun-Times

Former Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday corrected a Democratic ward committeeman who called him “Mr. Quinn.”

“It’s Gov. Quinn,” Quinn said with a smile.

But the former governor couldn’t stop Cook County Democrats from naming another candidate their choice for attorney general — losing an endorsement from the powerful organization to state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago.

The backing is a healthy boost to Raoul’s campaign in a crowded field of challengers to replace outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan — some with very similar goals.

But Quinn — who jumped into the race a week ago — still has name recognition on his side.  The former governor tried to persuade the party not to endorse any candidate and hold an open primary.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn makes his pitch for Attorney General during the Cook County Democratic endorsement sessions Friday. | Logan Javage/For the Sun-Times

Cook County Democratic Party head Joe Berrios said Raoul “did the best job” in “reaching out and talking to people.”

“With his past record and what he’s done in the state and his ability to go out and talk to people and reach out to different communities, I think that’s going to be very important for us,” Berrios said. “To make sure that the candidate for attorney general is able to go out and carry the Democratic banner and is able to reach out to people in different communities.”

Berrios told the Sun-Times there were votes for five of eight candidates who made their pitches — but he wouldn’t specify which three didn’t get votes before the group rallied behind Raoul.

Speaking in a small room full of 50 city ward and 30 suburban township Democratic committeemen, Raoul cited his past legal work and 13 years in the Senate as proof he’ll “continue to do the work” he’s already been doing.

His pitch also turned personal in mentioning his father, who died of prostate cancer. Raoul, too, said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. Raoul, 53, told the Sun-Times he is a “survivor,” and had surgery last year. He said early detection helped him overcome the cancer.

“I know how important early detection is. I know how important access to health care is,” Raoul said. “We have to make sure that we protect access to health care.”

The state senator also spoke of advice former President Barack Obama gave him when Raoul took his state Senate seat: Get to know people across the state and spend time with lawmakers across the aisle.

“’It will benefit you when you least expect it,” Raoul recalled Obama saying.

Quinn was the first of eight to speak before the party, first hailing Madigan, then touting his advocacy for “everyday people.”

While he credited the other candidates, he touted his own experience in running statewide campaigns — and having won three. Quinn has run for every statewide office except for comptroller.

“Campaigns statewide are crucibles. They are very grueling campaigns and they’re difficult and there are people on the other side who don’t throw rosebuds at you,” Quinn said.

The field of candidates also includes State Rep. Scott Drury, former head of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability Sharon Fairley, former State Board of Education Chairman Jesse Ruiz, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, former prosecutor Renato Mariotti, and Aaron Goldstein, a Democratic committeeman and a former attorney for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Drury, who dropped out of the governor’s race to run for attorney general, told the group he’s not the most popular person in Springfield. But he said it shows he’s willing to stand up to do the “right thing.”

Drury criticized Springfield’s delayed response to allegations of sexual harassment, detailing a letter he sent to Lisa Madigan and her father, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, on Wednesday to request a special prosecutor to investigate harassment claims.

“We need to appoint a special counsel,” Drury said, adding he wants someone to investigate whether any civil rights have been violated. “They should be investigating whether crimes have been committed.”

All of the candidates were asked if they had ever been accused of sexual harassment. All replied no, but Rotering and Fairley acknowledged they had #metoo stories of their own.

The crowning of Raoul as the party’s pick had its critics, including the Illinois Republican Party, led by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner and the GOP are backing Erika Harold, a lawyer and former Miss America for attorney general.

They called Raoul’s endorsement “no surprise” by the “most crooked organization in Illinois politics.”