Kwame Raoul for Illi­nois at­tor­ney gen­eral

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - SEE VIDEO AT SUN­TIMES.COM Kwame Raoul gives his stands on key is­sues

It’s a new era for at­tor­neys gen­eral in states across the na­tion as they step up to fight for the en­vi­ron­ment, work­ers’ rights, ac­cess to health care, con­sumer pro­tec­tions and a free and open in­ter­net.

Illi­nois’ next at­tor­ney gen­eral will have to take the lead in these bat­tles and oth­ers, coun­ter­ing the ret­ro­grade poli­cies of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Kwame Raoul, the Demo­cratic can­di­date for Illi­nois at­tor­ney gen­eral, gets our en­dorse­ment. We be­lieve he is the best qual­i­fied — and most in­clined — can­di­date to lead the charge, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Lisa Madi­gan, who is re­tir­ing from the of­fice. Raoul’s Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Erika Harold, has sig­naled far less en­thu­si­asm for tak­ing on such im­por­tant broader is­sues.

We should note one ex­cep­tion to that. In a re­cent in­ter­view with the Sun-Times Ed­i­to­rial Board, Harold ex­pressed strong sup­port for a law­suit Madi­gan filed in July that ar­gues the U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment vi­o­lated fed­eral law by re­fus­ing to turn over $6.5 mil­lion in tax­payer money to sup­port law en­force­ment in Illi­nois.

The fed­eral money has been with­held be­cause Illi­nois in 2017 en­acted a law called the Trust Act, which bars law en­force­ment of­fi­cers from ar­rest­ing peo­ple solely on the ba­sis of their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. We re­spect Harold for tak­ing a stand against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But there are a wealth of other ma­jor law­suits, as well, that Madi­gan has filed

— or joined — that Illi­nois’ next at­tor­ney gen­eral must be pre­pared to carry on with. And newly ur­gent mat­ters — also re­quir­ing a full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the of­fice’s broader pow­ers — are sure to come along.

Madi­gan has sued to stop the sep­a­ra­tion of fam­i­lies at the U.S. bor­der, to re­in­state en­ergy ef­fi­ciency stan­dards for home ap­pli­ances such as fans and air con­di­tion­ers, and to pre­vent young adults who were brought to our coun­try il­le­gally as young chil­dren from be­ing de­ported.

Ac­tion by state at­tor­neys gen­eral, in­clud­ing Madi­gan, also re­cently stopped the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from per­mit­ting de­signs for untraceable, home­made 3Dprinted guns to be dis­trib­uted on­line.

Raoul has demon­strated the abil­ity to work ef­fec­tively on a wide range of big is­sues.

A state sen­a­tor since 2004, he took the lead in a suc­cess­ful ef­fort to abol­ish the state’s death penalty. He ef­fec­tively ad­vo­cated for re­open­ing cases of im­pris­oned men who said they were con­victed on the ba­sis of state­ments ex­tracted through po­lice tor­ture. He has been a strong voice for vot­ers’ and work­ers’ rights, ac­cess to bet­ter health care, crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form and con­sumer pro­tec­tion — all is­sues that mat­ter greatly to the peo­ple of Illi­nois.

More­over, at a time when sci­en­tists are sound­ing the alarm that gov­ern­ment at all lev­els must take ac­tion against cli­mate change, Raoul has been an en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cate.

As a state sen­a­tor, he cham­pi­oned the right of res­i­dents to chal­lenge en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mits in court when a pro­posed project in their neigh­bor­hood threat­ens their per­sonal health and prop­erty.

He helped en­act the Fu­ture En­ergy Jobs Act to fos­ter the creation of thou­sands of jobs in the green econ­omy. The act re­quires that en­ergy pro­duced by fos­sil fu­els be pro­duced more ef­fi­ciently, which would re­duce harm­ful emis­sions, and pro­vides fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for the pro­duc­tion of wind and so­lar en­ergy.

As at­tor­ney gen­eral, Raoul pledges he would im­prove trans­parency by in­creas­ing fund­ing for the of­fice’s pub­lic ac­cess coun­selor, a po­si­tion cre­ated by leg­is­la­tion. The aim is to re­duce red tape for Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests and com­plaints about vi­o­la­tions of the Open Meet­ings Act. He also would beef up en­force­ment of la­bor law vi­o­la­tions, such as wage theft, when em­ploy­ers don’t pay the full amount a worker is owed.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral is Illi­nois’ top lawyer. He or she is also the state’s top con­sumer ad­vo­cate and the point per­son in rep­re­sent­ing ratepay­ers when util­i­ties ask for rate changes. Raoul has the skills and ex­pe­ri­ence to de­fend us well.

Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date Bubba Harsy also is run­ning.

AT A TIME WHEN SCI­EN­TISTS ARE SOUND­ING THE ALARM EVEN LOUDER THAT GOV­ERN­MENT AT ALL LEV­ELS MUST TAKE AC­TION AGAINST CLI­MATE CHANGE, RAOUL HAS BEEN AN EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL AD­VO­CATE.

SUN-TIMES FILES

State Sen. Kwame Raoul speaks in March against the U.S. Com­merce De­part­ment’s de­ci­sion to add a ques­tion about ci­ti­zen­ship on the 2020 Cen­sus.

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