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Attorney General candidates debate as primary nears

For the first time during the 2018 Illinois Attorney General race, all 10 candidates running for the position debated at a Wednesday forum hosted by the Union League Club of Chicago.

After Lisa Madigan announced she would not seek re-election last year Illinois will have a new face at Attorney General for the first time in 15 years. Of the 10 candidates seeking to replace Madigan, eight are Democratic; former governor Pat Quinn, Renato Mariotti, State Rep. Scott Drury, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, State Sen. Kwame Raoul, former CPS board member Jesse Ruiz, former head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability Sharon Fairley and Aaron Goldstein.

The two Republican candidates vying for Attorney General are Erika Harold and Gary Grasso. This is the first contested attorney general primary in 16 years, according to the forum moderator Carol Marin.

Throughout the forum candidates spoke on solutions to the sexual harassment problem sweeping the state and country — such as an independent investigator, an idea that was unanimously supported. Other talking points included potential solutions for gun violence and potential conflicts of interests among the candidates, which garnered the most interest as each answered the question. 

Former Illinois governor Pat Quinn addressing attendees before the opening of the 2010 Chicago Green Festival. | (Creative Commons / Photo by Chris Eaves).

“Legislators are voting on bills where they have personal and financial interests,” Quinn said. “Other states have mandatory conflict of interest standards and [they] have citizen legislators [like Illinois].”

Quinn, along with other candidates such as Ruiz, advocated for stricter conflict of interest policies. People should not be allowed to profit off their public service, Ruiz added.

“[Voters] should be very confident that it’s just your interest that are being represented and not other economic interests at play,” Harold said. 

Many candidates echoed these sentiments as they said removing conflicts of interest allow the attorney general to handle more issues without an access number of recusals. Out of the 10 candidates only Grasso, Fairley and Goldstein are self-funding their campaigns, according to Marin. 

However, some candidates such as Raoul — the candidate sponsored by the Cook County Democratic Party — and Rotering claim they have track records that prove they can represent the people’s interest regardless of the funding they have received from organizations.

“I’m not for sale,” Raoul said. “By embracing a citizen’s legislator [there will be conflicts of interest]. It’s very difficult to statutorily draw the line.” Rauol said there are enough safeguards in place to prevent conflicts of interest.

The Attorney General primary will be held on March 20.

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