Opinion page endorsement: Raoul for attorney general

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While we’ve come to expect political mudslinging in hotly contested races, the attack ads Republican Erika Harold and Democrat Kwame Raoul have flung at each other during the race for Illinois attorney general quickly grew tiresome. And that’s mainly because both can make a compelling case as to why they should be the state’s top lawyer without having to stoop to negative ads that include provable falsehoods about each other.

Their time, energy and campaign funds would have been better spent educating voters about what type of attorney general they would be. Harold, Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy are strong candidates who have good ideas on how the office of attorney general — which has been held for 16 years by Lisa Madigan — should operate.

We were impressed by the potential offered by Harold, an Urbana attorney who has spent much of her career focused on commercial litigation. Her 11 years on the national board of directors of Prison Fellowship, which pushes for bipartisan criminal justice reform, would help her zero in on areas where Illinois could improve. Her focus on transparency and accountability is refreshing, as is her vow to investigate allegations of public corruption like patronage hiring.

And while Gov. Bruce Rauner — who has claimed credit for recruiting Harold and provided her with significant funding — has publicly encouraged her to find wrongdoing by his political nemesis Mike Madigan if elected, we believe Harold when she promises to be an independent attorney general who puts the state’s people, and not her party, first.

However, Harold falls in short in several areas of experience we think the ideal attorney general candidate should possess: Having a depth and breadth of experience as an attorney, time as an elected official and success in shepherding a variety of legislation through the General Assembly.

Raoul has done all of those things. Besides being a former prosecutor, he says he also has represented those falsely accused of crimes, practiced health and education law, represented labor and employment cases, and taken on civil rights cases. Much of his 14-year tenure in the Illinois Senate has been focused on advocating for various criminal justice issues, including sentencing reform and protections for domestic violence victims. He has worked across the political aisle to get his objectives accomplished; Rauner has signed several of Raoul’s major reform efforts, including the Neighborhood Safety Act of 2017 and the Criminal Justice Best Practices Act of 2018, into law. Other areas in which he has demonstrated an interest are in fighting for consumer protections, the environment and voters’ rights.

As attorney general, Raoul says he would continue to advocate for criminal justice reforms, including for “commonsense provisions” regarding sentencing, probation and parole, bail and bond, juvenile justice, expungement and rehabilitation programs. We would hope, if elected, he would also take a strong interest in actively pursuing public corruption, an area he has not stressed as a priority as much as his two opponents have.

He did vow to ensure the Public Access Counselor — the department in the attorney general’s office that helps decide disputes involving the Freedom of Information and the Open Meetings acts — has enough resources, since he believes that will increase government transparency throughout the state. Given the backlog of cases in that office, Raoul, the Senate sponsor of the legislation that created the PAC in 2009, should be held to his pledge to improve the department. The wait for a ruling is usually long and often offending public entities and officials get little more than a slap on the wrist.

As the political outsider, Libertarian Harsy adequately captures the frustration many feel with the Democrats and Republicans who together have created Illinois’ fiscal mess. He too would focus on tackling corruption and promised to fight to allow residents to purchase health insurance across state lines. His belief that pensions for retired public employees are unconstitutional special privileges is unlikely to go anywhere. Illinois needs to truly tackle its pension problems, not continue to prolong making decisions that will actually address the unfunded liability.

In the end, Raoul has the legal background and legislative experience an attorney general will need to be successful. He gets the endorsement.

00-Pol RT,19-Legal,22-Talk,26-Delivered

Region: Springfield,Feeds,Sang,Editorial,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Editorials – The State Journal-Register https://ift.tt/1EQ76xA

October 18, 2018 at 08:18PM

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