Attorney General Raoul and Republican challenger DeVore far apart on issues

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Republican challenger Tom DeVore (left) and Democratic Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (right).

Facebook; Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

The son of Haitian immigrants, the incumbent is a former longtime state lawmaker who lives on the Near North Side. The challenger is a small-town lawyer from southern Illinois who sued the state over COVID-19 mask mandates and has the words “Freedom” and “Liberty” tattooed on his forearms.

As the race for Illinois attorney general — the state’s top elected law officer — enters its final days, the contrast between the two leading candidates couldn’t be more stark. 

Democratic incumbent Kwame Raoul and Republican Tom DeVore are not only from opposite ends of the state, but they also line up on opposite ends of the fight over a major criminal justice reform law signed into law last year known as the Safe-T Act.

Raoul believes the law will be tweaked through amendments but says he “firmly” supports the end of cash bail — a centerpiece of the law that will go into effect next year. DeVore calls the law unconstitutional and says that, if he’s elected, he wouldn’t defend it.

Asked why voters should return him to office, Raoul rattles off accomplishments including consumer protection measures and extracting money from some of the nation’s biggest drug makers that contributed to the opioid crisis, a case led by a coalition of attorneys general. 

Raoul, 58, also touts tools for law enforcement he’s championed, such as a program used to trace guns used in crimes.

DeVore is endorsed by the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, the state’s leading law enforcement union.   

As a state senator from Chicago for 14 years and as attorney general the past four, Raoul says he’s been a staunch supporter of an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also supports abortion rights and has vowed to uphold the state’s protections post Roe v. Wade.

DeVore sidesteps questions about his opinion on abortion, saying it wouldn’t affect his conduct in office. Citing the state’s current laws legalizing abortion, DeVore says, “It’s not an issue that’s at risk” and that he “will respect it, I will support it, and I will defend it.”

Raoul (left) and DeVore are at odds over a major criminal justice reform law that eliminates cash bail.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times-file; Provided photo

Both men cite family and personal experiences as driving forces in their political philosophies. 

Raoul, a cancer survivor and son of a family doctor on the South Side, says everyone should have access to health care. 

DeVore describes growing up poor in a trailer in southern Illinois with a father who had “a drinking problem.” DeVore paid his way through college and went back years later to get his law degree. 

DeVore, 53, boils down the top issues in the race to three categories: “crime, corruption and the constitution.”

He claims Raoul could’ve done more to root out corruption in Illinois, a job that has largely fallen to federal officials. But violent crime, he says, is the No. 1 issue he’s asked about while campaigning.  

“Everywhere you go, people are wanting to talk about crime,” DeVore said.

Tom DeVore, a Republican who is running for Illinois attorney general, waves during the 93rd annual Bud Billiken Parade in August.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

The accountant-turned-lawyer from Sorento (pop.: just over 400) made news suing Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker over COVID mandates such as vaccine and mask requirements. A mask mandate lawsuit was dismissed in August. 

DeVore said the lawsuits were about what he calls unconstitutional executive orders by Pritzker. He’s said Raoul was complicit by not questioning the governor’s order. He’s called the mask mandate “tyrannical.” 

On another front, DeVore is encouraging parents to opt out of sex education for their children in K-12 schools.

On abortion, Raoul is dubious of DeVore’s vow to uphold the law.

“There’s a pending case … trying to get the Reproductive Health Act overturned,” Raoul said, referring to the Illinois law that makes abortion legal. “The attorney general has to be committed to vigorously defending such lawsuits from extremists.”

As for the hot-button issue of cash bail, the candidates are far apart.

“I firmly support the philosophy that cash should not be the determining factor as to whether or not somebody is held in county jail prior to their trial. That allows for, let’s say, a gangbanger who may have the benefit of proceeds from drug sales,” Raoul said.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul sits for a meal at Manny’s Deli on primary election day in June.

Kevin Tanaka / For the Sun-Times

DeVore said the law, now facing multiple court challenges, is illegal on multiple fronts. 

“It’s clearly unconstitutional on procedural and substantive grounds,” DeVore said. 

He said he believes Raoul’s “social justice beliefs drive what he does as attorney general, which I think is inappropriate.” 

The Sun-Times/WBEZ poll earlier this month showed Raoul ahead of DeVore by 44% to 35%. Libertarian Daniel K. Robin found support from 8% of those polled. 

Daniel K. Robin, Libertarian candidate for Illinois attorney general.

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“The love of liberty is my qualification,” Robin, 72, a retired lawyer from Schaumburg, says on his campaign website.

Asked to define libertarian, Robin said “socially liberal, fiscally conservative. That helps people understand we are the better half of the other parties.”

Robin said he has raised about $200 for his campaign.

DeVore falls well short of Raoul’s fundraising haul and is being significantly outspent. The Republican has been the biggest contributor to his campaign, raising more than half the $528,000 reported to state election officials.

Raoul got $1 million from Pritzker alone.

At the end of September, Raoul’s campaign had $1.9 million in cash, compared with just under $300,000 for DeVore.

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October 28, 2022 at 07:03AM

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