What’s next in the race for AG?

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The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin published this piece in print on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. The jump is below.

Published by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on March 21, 2018

By Rebecca Anzel
Law Bulletin correspondent


SPRINGFIELD — With the field for attorney general whittled from 10 to two, the Democratic nominee is calling for a substantive debate on legal issues.

Chicagoan Kwame Y. Raoul, a state senator and partner in Quarles & Brady LLP’s health group, defeated seven opponents in the primary election to secure the Democrats’ nod. He took about 30 percent of the Democrat vote, according to The Associated Press, topping a field that included former Gov. Patrick J. Quinn and former Assistant Attorney General Sharon Fairley.

“When you have eight candidates, you don’t really have the opportunity to have informed debates that aren’t about fingers and generic sound bites, because you only have 45 seconds to respond [in debates],” Raoul said.

And with 59 percent of Republican voters picking Erika N.L. Harold, a partner at Champaign-based Meyer Capel P.C., as their nominee, Raoul said the tenor of the general election can change.

“My opponent is a well-educated lawyer,” he said, “and I think she’s quite capable of having good policy discussions on a wide variety of issues — health care, consumer protection, law enforcement reform.”

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Harold, who won the Miss America competition in 2003, defeated Gary A. Grasso of Grasso Bass P.C. in Hinsdale in Tuesday’s primary.

Democrats outnumbered Republicans at the polls on Election Day by almost a 2-1 margin.

Harold’s campaign did not respond to multiple attempts for comment, but in an interview this morning with WFLD-TV Channel 32, Harold said her campaign will focus on “bipartisan issues” such as fighting corruption and the opioid epidemic and increasing government accountability.

Should the debate Raoul wants happen, one topic on his agenda would be preventing what Raoul called an “egregious violation” on the part of the Department of Labor.

The General Assembly voted to approve a measure, Senate Bill 193, that would allow the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to pursue workers’ rights violations, wage theft and misclassified employees directly as opposed to having to wait for the Department of Labor to send a referral.

The bill is currently awaiting action by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who squeaked out of his own primary on Tuesday with 51 percent of the GOP vote.

Raoul, who sponsored the legislation, said testimony in a committee hearing revealed the Labor Department “slow-walked” investigations. In one instance, the department took five years to investigate a case, so by the time its referral reached the attorney general’s office, the statute of limitations had expired.

Also worth debating are ways to bolster neglected roles of the state’s highest lawyer, Raoul said. One is enacting an “equal reaction” to instances of gun violence. The issue, he said, has received an “enhanced focus” since the school shooting in Florida.

“There are shootings that take place in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the state that experience normalized violence” Raoul said. “One of the often overlooked functions of the attorney general’s office is to direct victims resources and to make sure we’re supporting evidence-based interventions in communities ravaged by violence.”

An expanded definition explaining who a victim is would help, he said, as would efforts by the next attorney general to embrace intervention programs to treat trauma and to catch people who are “victimized by violence.”

Another way to shore up the office, Raoul said, is to prioritize an expedited resolution to claims of Freedom of Information Act denials and Open Meetings Act violations. Currently, a public access counselor within the attorney general’s office is tasked with responding to all complaints, but the process can take time.

“There’s also a new role, as a managing partner of a law firm that represents the state of Illinois, that I like to call the Trump Defense role,” he said. “I’ve heard from several attorneys general this morning from around the country — they’re collaborating together to defend the state against not well-thought-out policies coming from the federal government: access to health care, immigration, things of that nature.”

Harold and Raoul will face off on Nov. 6.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a partner at Quarles & Brady LLP and the Democratic nominee for Illinois attorney general, gives his victory speech at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Chicago on Tuesday. In November, Raoul will face Erika N.L. Harold, a partner at Champaign-based Meyer Capel P.C., who won the GOP primary. (Photo credit: Kevin Tanaka/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)


The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin originally published this piece online here.