Democratic State Senator Kwame Raoul leading in Illinois attorney general race


Source: Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT

U.S. Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Ill.) at the 2011 signing of a bill that ended the death penalty in Illinois. A recent poll found Raoul has a 10-point lead over Republican attorney Erika Harold in the race for Illinois attorney general.

Sneha Dey, Reporter

The Illinois attorney general election is predicted to be a close one.

According to a recent poll from the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University, State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) is 10 points ahead of Republican attorney Erika Harold. But the poll also said 39 percent of voters are still undecided, less than a week before the election.

Incumbent Lisa Madigan, who has held the post for 15 years, announced in 2017 she would not be running for a fifth term.

Raoul was first elected to the state senate in 2004, when he took former president Barack Obama’s vacated seat. As senator, he advocated for criminal justice reform measures and moved to abolish the state’s death penalty.

If he were elected attorney general, Raoul said he would take on gun violence. According to his website, as a father of two, Raoul knows “the most important job parents have – and sometimes the hardest – is to keep their kids safe.”

He wants to establish a trauma center program, which will treat victims of violence — victims who would otherwise become perpetrators, he wrote.

Raoul also promised to safeguard abortion rights, access to affordable health care and environmental regulations already in place. Raoul has been endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, which argued he is most qualified for the job.

“(Attorneys General) not only in the state of Illinois but nationally have taken a role as the last line of defense against Donald Trump’s policies,” Raoul said at WTTW’s televised forum on Oct. 29.

Harold has never held political office before. She currently works as a Champaign-based litigation attorney in complex commercial and constitutional law. Her crowning as Miss America in 2003 helped her pay for Harvard Law School.

According to her website, Harold’s main cause is fighting public corruption in Illinois. She wants to expand the attorney general office’s investigative powers.

Harold criticized Madigan’s attempt to address corruption.

“Attorney General Madigan has not used the full measure of the Office’s statutory power or bully pulpit to investigate or condemn allegations of public corruption — such as allegations of patronage hiring and improper awarding of government grants,” she told the Sun-Times.

Harold also plans to address the opioid epidemic and advocate for harassment reform. She has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, which stresses corruption as an integral issue to address. The Tribune noted Harold’s role as a Republican check on Democratic power.

“If elected, Harold could be the only member of the opposite party serving as a watchdog on the mostly Democratic apparatus of state government,” the editorial board wrote.

Both sides have put out a series of attack ads. Raoul drew attention to Harold’s personal views against same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, although Harold has ardently denied she would take action on either. Harold associated Raoul with allegedly corrupt House Speaker Mike Madigan, and she denounced his plan to raise income taxes.

Both candidates received contributions from their respective party’s gubernatorial candidates. Democrat J.B. Pritzker contributed $3 million to Raoul’s campaign and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner contributed $2 million to Harold’s.

At the WTTW televised forum, Harold and Raoul both said they would remain independent from whomever is elected as Illinois’ governor, despite these major donations.

Libertarian Bubba Harsy is also on the ballot. On his website, Harsy wrote he — like Harold — is running to address the ongoing corruption previous attorney generals have failed to fight. He wants to take back pensions from “undeserving elected officials,” use deregulation to promote more competition among companies and make prison sentences and punishment stricter.

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