Candidates for Illinois Attorney General discuss women’s issues, Trump


Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT

Former Gov. Pat Quinn, center, signs into law a bill ending the death penalty in Illinois in March 2011 at the State Capitol in Springfield with Kwame Raoul beside him. Quinn and Raoul are both democratic candidates for the March attorney general primary.

Catherine Henderson, Assistant City Editor

Candidates for Illinois Attorney General struggled to stand out at a community forum Sunday evening and answered questions from local residents on topics ranging from President Donald Trump to sexual assault.

Action for a Better Tomorrow — an Illinois-based nonprofit, grassroots organization founded in the wake of the 2016 election — and the National Organization for Women hosted the eight Democratic candidates at Grace Lutheran Church. There is no clear frontrunner in the race.

Alisa Kaplan, ABT’s statewide director and co-leader of its Evanston chapter, said the three Republicans were invited but did not respond to her request. She estimated about 200 people attended the event and said she hoped people walked away with a better sense of the candidates, who each had 90 seconds to respond to five questions from the audience.

“The race for attorney general is something that most people probably never paid attention to,” Kaplan told The Daily. “I’m heartened by the fact that so many people showed up to see a forum for a position that they might not have known existed a year and a half ago.”

In September, current Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would not seek re-election in 2018 after serving for 16 years. Former governor and candidate for attorney general Pat Quinn said the attorney general is the “lawyer for the people” and therefore needs to know the people.

During the forum, former state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13th District), said he admired Madigan’s work on consumer protection, but added that he would like to improve efforts to prevent sexual assault and protect citizens’ civil rights.

Raoul received enthusiastic applause during introductions when he said he was the child of Haitian immigrants. He said Trump’s recent comments insulting Haiti and other foreign countries angered but did not surprise him.

“The history of Haitians in America goes back to Savannah in 1779 where hundreds of soldiers fought for the independence of this country before they got their own independence,” Raoul told The Daily. “A lot of people don’t know that. Clearly Donald Trump doesn’t know that.”

He emphasized the importance of protecting women from domestic violence and sexual assault and harassment, a topic many candidates addressed throughout the forum. He mentioned his work as a state senator sponsoring legislation to create trauma recovery centers, and he said would continue this work as attorney general.

Current mayor of Highland Park Nancy Rotering said she wants to make sure recovery centers treat women “regardless of documentation status and regardless of income.” Sharon Fairley, previously a federal prosecutor and former assistant attorney general, said she wants to prevent sexual harassment within the state legislature.

Fairley said that as one of two women running for the position and the only woman of color, she brings a different perspective to the table. She said she was inspired to become a prosecutor to stand up for citizens based on her personal experience with harassment and discrimination.

“When I was a young girl, my mother taught me that I have two strikes against me — being a woman and being a person of color,” Fairley told The Daily. “And because of that, I’m always going to have to work harder.”

Chicago resident Milton Davis said he was impressed with the candidates’ qualifications and answers. Still, Davis said it was hard for a specific candidate to stand out in a crowded field with similar progressive views.

“There was not any one,” Davis said. “I saw some of the same answers come from different people.”

The eight candidates will face off in the Democratic primary on March 20.

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A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the former state Sen. running for attorney general. His name is Kwame Raoul. The Daily regrets the error.