Name: Aaron Goldstein
Office seeking: Attorney General
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City of residence: Chicago
Campaign website: AG4AG.org
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? I have the most trial experience of any candidate in this race. I have litigated more than 30 felony jury trials, 50 felony bench trials, and more than 100 felony motions. I have worked for real people, not corporations, insiders, or special interests. As a public defender, I have firsthand knowledge of the racial and ethnic inequities in the criminal justice system and the lack of re-entry opportunity for ex-offenders. I currently supervise a branch of the Public Defender’s Office. In 2016, I ran for Chicago’s 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman and against very long odds, defeated 40-year incumbent Richard Mell, considered one of Chicago’s most powerful Democratic machine politicians and power brokers. I immediately initiated reforms to his ward’s judicial review and evaluation process and has been a vocal advocate for judicial reform in the Cook County Democratic Party ever since. I am the first in this race to call for legalization of marijuana; the only candidate to say I will go after gun manufacturers to stop the spread of gun violence in our communities; and the only candidate to insist that communities have enforcement power and a voice in any consent decree dealing with police reform. I am the only candidate who has openly supported progressive candidates for office including Bernie Sanders. I am the only candidate who was not appointed by Mayor Emanuel, supported or signed an unconstitutional pension bill or worked for big corporations. I am the only candidate to state unequivocally that I will not take money from big corporations or utilities.
What do you view the role of the attorney general's office to be in terms of law enforcement? My entire career has been devoted to criminal justice and civil rights. I will be a strong advocate for police reform. The police play a vital role in our community and we must trust that they are there to serve and protect. However, long before the recent news of police shootings, there were far too many abuses by the police against the residents of the state. In order to ensure we improve, we must have a federal monitor of the Chicago Police Department. I am the only Attorney General candidate advocating for a consent decree that gives the community enforcement power and a voice as part of a consent decree. It is only when the community is truly involved that we will have police reform. As Attorney General, I will monitor the consent decree to ensure the police are protecting our communities and our civil rights. Police reform is not just a problem in Chicago, as Attorney General, I will use my power to stop abuses by the people of the people anywhere throughout the state.
How would you view the relationship between the attorney general's office and state's attorneys in each county? It’s important for the AG’s office to support and work with local state’s attorney offices throughout the Illinois. I would work with state’s attorneys to ensure that we are being pro-active in pursuing corruption, police accountability, and criminal justice reform.
What is the most important issue facing the attorney general's office? How would you approach it? The most important issue facing the AG’s office is to be pro-active. On issues ranging from the Trump agenda to environmental justice to political corruption, the current AG has been competent but cautious. I believe the AG needs to be on the forefront of issues of racial justice, economic justice and environmental justice. Corporations, polluters and corrupt politicians must be held accountable. I am running to transform the office of Attorney General, to bring back justice for Illinois. That priority will be accomplished in three distinct areas: economic justice where I will take on the big banks, corporations, and the right-wing agenda led by Donald Trump; bring back justice to an unjust system where I will accomplish real criminal justice reform that ends mass incarceration, eliminates the racist drug war, ends cash bail process that discriminates against people with limited means, and brings real, long overdue, police reform to ensure that police represent, rather than intimidate, the good citizens of our state; and finally, I will fight corruption and cronyism that distorts our democracy. I will fight for environmental justice and work tirelessly to protect the rights of women. I will work to protect the rights of all communities from discrimination and intimidation. I have a bold Progressive Agenda which we need now to protect, promote and restore the promise for all Illinois voters.
What other issues would you focus the attorney general's office on? Transparency is crucial to a democracy. As the Illinois Open Meetings Act states: “public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business.” 5 ILCS 120/1. I will ensure that the public access counselor is fully funded and staffed so that requests and complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively. I will also work with organizations such as the Better Government Association and others who advocate for transparent government to improve the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act. I will work to ensure that the public access counselor’s office, once fully funded and staffed, that all requests are handled quickly and efficiently and we don’t have to resort to numerous lawsuits for governments to be transparent.
What are your views on the legalization of marijuana debate? I believe marijuana should be legalized. One doesn’t have to be a user of marijuana to understand that the war on drugs—and the criminalization of marijuana in particular—has been an abysmal failure. Far too many of our citizens have been convicted and imprisoned for using marijuana, although little evidence exists to support our draconian drug laws. Ironically, rather than helping our citizens, criminalization of marijuana has encouraged the development of a huge and chaotic black market, with its inevitable consequences of gang violence and harm to many innocent bystanders. For these reasons, and based on the experience of other states that have legalized marijuana, I believe it is time to legalize marijuana in Illinois as well. It should be regulated—based on clear scientific evidence—to ensure that legal pot does not create any significant health or public safety risks to the people of Illinois and that the marijuana industry is run fairly and lawfully. As Attorney General, I will consult with attorneys general from states that have legalized marijuana to ensure that Illinois adopts best practices in the production, distribution and sales of marijuana, and that any tax revenue Illinois derives from the sale of marijuana is used for purposes that benefit all the people, not just the few who are politically connected.