JOLIET – Illinois Attorney General candidate and State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, was in Joliet on Sunday to speak to the congregation of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church.
Raoul was appointed to the State Senate in 2004 to fill the seat vacated after Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. He’s now a candidate among a deep Democratic field to replace current Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who announced in September she would not seek re-election.
He spoke to Herald-News reporter Alex Ortiz about his background, his passion for criminal justice and what he would as Illinois Attorney General. The following Q&A was edited for brevity and clarification.
Ortiz: So tell me a little about yourself. You’re from Chicago?
Raoul: I’m from Chicago, a lifelong resident of the South Side. My parents were both Haitian immigrants. They didn’t come from a s---hole. My father served as a community physician for 30 years on the South Side. So the spirit of access to health care has always been one that took to me in my policy making. I’m a lawyer going on 25 years. I started my career as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. I’ve worked in a small boutique practice and I’ve worked in house in a community college system, the City Colleges of Chicago and I’ve worked at two major law firms. So I’ve worked in a wide variety of areas.
Ortiz: So why run for Attorney General?
Raoul: It’s continuing the work that I’ve been able to do as a lawmaker. The Attorney General’s Office has the capacity of advocating for policy changes in the legislature or against bad policy changes. But as Attorney General, you not only have the capacity to advocate for policy changes, you have the power to enforce. As a legislator I can only make law. I don’t have the power to enforce.
Ortiz: Is there anything you would do differently from Lisa Madigan as Attorney General?
Raoul: Let me be the first to say that I think she’s done a great job in consumer protection and protecting victims and advocacy for the environment. I worked with her to sponsor legislation that created the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s Office. The other thing that I’m very passionate about and been active with ever since I entered the legislature is criminal justice reform. I think the Attorney General’s Office has been fairly silent on using the bully pulpit to advance criminal justice reform changes.
Ortiz: Some Republican politicians have criticized Madigan for failing to look into public corruption. Do you give any credence to that?
Raoul: What I can say is we don’t know what investigations the Attorney General has been involved in because those investigations necessarily have to be covert investigations. If you’re announcing an investigation and doing them in the light for everyone to see them, then you’re probably doing an ineffective investigation. Secondly, I think the best cleanser to public corruption is sunshine. That’s why I created the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s Office. If there’s sunshine, the likelihood of public officials participating in corruption is greatly diminished.