Crackdowns on crime, corruption and COVID-19 restrictions — with some unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud for good measure.
The three men vying for the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general have all the major conservative hot-button issues pressed down as they duke it out for a challenge to Democrat Kwame Raoul, who is wrapping up his first term as the state’s chief legal officer.
Downstate constitutional attorney Tom DeVore has made a name for himself fighting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pandemic mitigation efforts, mounting a series of legal challenges against allegedly “tyrannical orders” that were mostly unsuccessful until a Sangamon County judge issued an order earlier this year dismantling the statewide school mask mandate.
North suburban international business attorney Steve Kim has gotten the nod from GOP primary voters in the past — in 2010, when he lost in the general election to Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan — but he’s back this time with a pledge to tamp down crime in a state he calls “world-famous” for corruption.
And Orland Park constitutional attorney David Shestokas, a former congressional candidate, is back on the campaign trail after arguing alongside Rudy Giuliani in 2020 with false claims that votes in Pennsylvania and beyond were illegitimately counted to prevent former President Donald Trump from winning a second term.
DeVore — repeatedly labeled a “grifter” by Pritzker during their legal tussles — said he was inspired to make his first run for public office when he “saw a flicker of hope and people standing up for what they believe” when the controversial school mask order was issued in February.
“I saw people defending themselves against what I’ve argued is an overreach of executive authority,” DeVore told the Sun-Times. “Our people have become too reliant on electing politicians who can solve their problems, instead of saying we all need to participate.”
Pritzker’s office still maintains that the governor has the power to enact another mask mandate if the pandemic spirals back out of control.
DeVore, whose forearms are tattooed with the words “freedom” and “liberty,” said he never would’ve gotten involved with the COVID measures if Pritzker had convened the General Assembly to approve business shutdowns, capacity limits and other restrictions — “even if they were exactly the same” as the governor’s executive orders.
“People across the state feel abandoned. Raoul chose to defend the government and not the people of this state,” said DeVore, who lives in Sorento, about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis.
Kim agreed with DeVore’s assessment of pandemic guidelines, saying “we need to move away from government regulation to personal responsibility.”
Shestokas dismissed Raoul as “the governor’s wingman. He’s made everything we do not like about J.B. Pritzker possible.”
Kim said he was moved to run after “going to local watering holes, talking to everyday people and getting a sense of the fear they have” about crime in Chicago spreading to the suburbs.
“I’ve had people close to me shot at, carjacked,” the Deerfield resident said. “The impact that crime is having on everyday lives is real, along with the mental impact.”
Kim said he’d expand resources for local state’s attorneys to prosecute more cases — and he noted “there is nothing in statute that says the attorney general can’t prosecute corrupt politicians.”
Kim says it’s a tactic Raoul and other Democratic leaders have neglected as “we’re still world-famous in Illinois for corruption, even with [former Illinois House Speaker] Michael Madigan indicted.”
“I’ve seen firsthand what corruption does,” Kim said, referencing legal work he’s done in Baghdad. “The corruption is so rife, you don’t see economic development because western organizations won’t invest. That’s playing out here.”
Kim is running along with a party establishment slate of GOP candidates recruited by political operatives tied to former Gov. Bruce Rauner and backed by the deep pockets of hedge fund titan and conservative mega-donor Ken Griffin.
More than a half million of Griffin’s dollars are lining Kim’s campaign fund, dwarfing the roughly $34,000 that DeVore has raised so far. Shestokas hasn’t reported any campaign contributions.
Kim described his slate as “outsiders that have the best background and experience to really tackle the big issues.”
DeVore said the so-called “Griffin slate” candidates were “trying to buy name recognition because their deeds haven’t garnered the respect of the people.” But the downstate attorney, who lives in Sorento, about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis, agreed with Kim’s take on Illinois corruption, saying he’d put together a task force devoted to the issue.
Shestokas, too, hammered Dems on crime, touting his slogan, “Make crime illegal again.”
“We will prosecute those crimes that the local folks won’t,” Shestokas said, echoing critiques of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
The southwest suburban lawyer, who was part of Trump’s legal team in Pennsylvania, also said he’d push the Illinois State Board of Elections to produce data proving they’re “keeping the voter rolls clean.”
Shestokas stopped short of saying the 2020 election was rigged against Trump, instead complaining that “there were way too many people interested in getting it done fast.”
“I can’t say if Mr. Biden won, I can’t say if Mr. Trump won. … We did not do what was necessary to solidify [results] and get it right,” Shestokas said. He’s more pointed on his website, which alleges “schemes of voter fraud in Illinois.”
Election officials in Illinois and beyond have asserted there were no widespread irregularities in the 2020 vote counts anywhere in the nation, and that Biden won decisively.
DeVore called Shestokas’ claims “dangerous” but didn’t shut the door completely to the misguided voter fraud claims that have been perpetuated by Trump.
“I’ve never seen any evidence of fraud. Somebody would have to show me the facts to say that‘s possible,” DeVore said.
Kim said: “Joe Biden is the president, and I personally have seen nothing to suggest otherwise.”
A Sun-Times/WBEZ poll conducted last week suggests DeVore and Kim are locked in a dead heat despite the heavy cash disparity. Among 677 likely primary voters, 20% said they’d support DeVore, compared to 18% for Kim and 3% for Shestokas — but more than half were still undecided. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
The winner of the June 28 primary will square off against Raoul and Libertarian Dan Robin in November.
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June 15, 2022 at 06:44PM