State Sen. Kwame Raoul participates in Attorney General Candidates forum

Illinois Attorney General candidate and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) speaks as other candidates, Renato Mariotti, Civilian Office of Police Accountability Chief Sharon Fairly and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering listen during an Illinois Attorney General candidate forum sponsored by the Cook County Bar Association, Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Northeastern Illinois University Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd. – Spencer Bibbs

By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

In his quest to fill a vacancy left by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13), Hyde Park representative in the Upper House, along with several other candidates running in the 2018 Illinois March Primary, participated in an “Attorney General Candidates Forum,” held on Tuesday night, Dec. 12, at Northeastern Illinois University’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd.

The Cook County Board Association sponsored the event, which included a panel of eight candidates and was moderated by WVON’s radio personality Cliff Kelley and Maudlyne Ihejirika of the Chicago Sun-Times.

In addition to Raoul, the panel of candidates vying for the seat of the Illinois Attorney General’s office in the 2018 March Primaries included Federal Prosecutor Scott Drury, Assistant Attorney General and Federal Prosecutor Sharon Fairley, Attorney Aaron Goldstein, Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti, Mayor of Highland Park Nancy Rotering, Former Illinois Governor Patt Quinn and Attorney Jesse Ruiz.

“I’m running for Attorney General because our justice system must be blind; not a scheme that protects a privileged few,” said Raoul in a past issue of the Herald. “As Illinois’ top prosecutor, the institutor of justice in our state, we cannot allow the political gamesmanship of Springfield to pervade our legal system.”

The Illinois Attorney General is the highest legal officer of the state of Illinois in the United States. Originally an appointed office, it is now an elected office.

Raoul has been the State Senator of District 13, which includes the Hyde Park –Kenwood neighborhood, since 2004. He took office after Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. He is the chair of the Illinois Senate’s Redistricting Committee and the Senate’s Pension & Investments Committee.

Raoul serves as a partner of the law firm of Quarles & Brady with a practice concentrating on employment and labor litigation and lives in the Hyde Park –Kenwood neighborhood with his two children, Che and Mizan.

Throughout the evening, each candidate answered a series of questions written by the moderators of the forum, the student government association of NEIU, and crowd attendees. Each question addressed the candidates ability to handle issues in areas of “the current landscape of Chicago Public Schools and their elected board officials, “How to close the widening gap between affluent communities and disenfranchised communities (such as school closings, the Englewood neighborhood, economics, etc.),” and “What additional steps could the Attorney General office take to address sexual harassment in the state capitol against the landscape of ‘me too.’”

Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti, a candidate for Attorney General, spoke about the importance of the current landscape of Chicago Public Schools and their elected board officials.

“I’m not a politician or an insider on the stage and I got to tell you, the more that I hear about what’s going on with our schools, the more frustrated I am and the more I’m wondering how in the [world] we don’t vote some of these people out,” Mariotti said attendees. “We have had many of our schools close and the way they chose which school to close is by saying ‘well there are schools underperforming in certain areas in the city and the issues are we will just get rid of the schools instead of investing in the schools or investing in those communities. It’s wrong.”

Raoul said have an educator lead the school district would have a better affect on the system.

“First of all we need to stop hiring people to run our school district who are not educators,” said Raoul about the current state of the Chicago Public School system. “ A vast majority around the country hire educators to run their school district and not people who are used to directing buses.”

Aaron Goldstein, attorney, said history is to blame when it comes to closing the widening gap between affluent communities and disenfranchised communities.

“When it comes to a debate on how to close the widening of an economic gap we have to look at history,” Goldstein said. “We didn’t just all of a sudden get here and if we know our history, we know how we got here. We’ve went from slavery to Jim Crow, to segregation, to redlining and to where we are now. So we are not going to, with a snap of a finger, fix everything and we must realize how everything is connected. When 50 schools close down in our communities that’s a problem, that helps to widen the gap.”

Goldstein also said that police brutality, banks, and corporations “taking advantage of all of us helps widen the gap also.”

Responding to a question about “What additional steps could the Attorney General office take to address sexual harassment in the state capitol against the landscape of ‘me too.’” Federal Prosecutor Sharon Fairley, candidate for attorney general, said it’s a matter of checks and balances.

“The one sort of checks and balance we had in place, as meager as it is, is the Legislator Inspector General,” Fairley said. “That office has gone unfilled for three years. Why is that?”

Fairley said, “As Attorney General I will help fill that office. Not only will it be filled but it will have the teeth and the power to hold people accountable in a credible way.”

j.phillips@hpherald.com