Democratic candidates for Illinois attorney general face crowded field


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Former governor Pat Quinn at a protest in Chicago. Quinn and seven other democratic candidates will face off in the primary election for Illinois attorney general.

Catherine Henderson, Assistant City Editor

Democratic candidates for Illinois attorney general have struggled to stand out in the crowded field as the March 20 primary approaches.

Eight candidates, ranging from a former governor to a political novice, are on the ballot to replace current attorney general Lisa Madigan. In September, Madigan announced she would not seek re-election in 2018 after serving for 16 years.


According to a recent poll from Southern Illinois University, former state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) leads the field by a small margin. The Cook County Democratic Party also endorsed Raoul.

Raoul has focused on gun control and criminal justice reform in his campaign. At a community forum in January, he said he had a reputation in the legislature for working across the aisle to pass laws related to his goals.

“Law enforcement reform, criminal justice reform — (my opponents) talk about this generally, but I talk about this from the standpoint of having passed numerous bills focused on criminal justice reform, numerous bills focused on law enforcement,” Raoul said.

Trailing close behind Raoul, former Gov. Pat Quinn said at the forum that the attorney general is the “lawyer for the people” and therefore needs to know the people. His experience in public office equips him to fill this position, he added.

Quinn has served in the Illinois government since 1991 as the state treasurer, lieutenant governor and governor. He lost his re-election bid to current Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2014. His campaign has focused on the importance of standing up to President Donald Trump and attorney general Jeff Sessions.  

“I’m most concerned that the federal government under President Trump has abrogated its responsibility to enforce important laws that protect public health, safety and welfare,” Quinn told the Chicago Sun Times editorial board in January.  “When the federal government fails to meet its responsibilities, state attorneys general must step up to fill the void and pursue the public interest.”


The other six candidates have struggled to raise funds and differentiate their policies from their opponents, each polling below 10 percent.

Jesse Ruiz, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, also focused on criminal justice reform and fighting against Trump. During the community forum, he said he got into politics after studying law with former President Barack Obama at the University of Chicago.

After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering emphasized her successful assault weapons ban in her city. She said gun safety is high on her agenda.

Sharon Fairley, previously a federal prosecutor and former state assistant attorney general, said as one of two women running for the position and the only woman of color, she brings a different perspective to the table.

“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 in January. “And because of that, I’m always going to have to work harder.”

The last three candidates, 33rd ward democratic committeeman Aaron Goldstein, state Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) and first-time candidate Renato Mariotti have struggled in the polls and fundraising.

The winner will run against the Republican candidate, either Erika Harold or Garry Grasso, in the fall.

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