Name: Kwame Raoul
Office seeking: Attorney General
City of residence: Chicago
Campaign website: www.kwameraoul.com
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? I am seeking this office because it is the natural extension of my life’s work as an attorney and legislator. I’ve been a practicing attorney going on 25 years and spent the 13 years in the Illinois State Senate. In the legislature, I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee for the last nine years, also chaired the Senate Pensions and Investment Committee and Redistricting Committee prior to that. I’ve sponsored a broad range of legislation including criminal justice reform with the highlight being the abolition of the death penalty. I’ve served on the Criminal Justice Reform Commission, the Sentencing Policy Advisory Commission. I’ve advocated for sensible workers’ compensation reform. I’ve worked on a broad range of issues including the expansion of Medicaid so Illinois could take full advantage of the Affordable Care Act. I have also championed a comprehensive law enforcement reform bill and increased penalties for repeat gun offenders. I look forward to taking that experience to the attorney general’s office.
What do you view the role of the attorney general’s office to be in terms of law enforcement? The two most important roles for the Attorney General in regards to law enforcement right now are to address gun violence and pursue criminal justice reform. As Attorney General I will continue the work I began in the General Assembly on criminal justice reform. I will use the office’s “bully pulpit” and my role as an advocate to urge passage of commonsense provisions related to sentencing, probation and parole, bail and bond, juvenile justice, expungement and rehabilitation programs. I will work in my new role to maintain Illinois’ progress away from just being tough on crime and toward being smart on crime. I will defend laws I championed in the legislature to crack down on repeat gun offenders and advocate for common sense restrictions to curb the epidemic of gun violence in our state. This goes beyond just calling for the ban of assault weapons, which I support, but also attacking the root causes of economic inequity and trauma recovery for victims to break the cycle of crime that plagues our communities.
How would you view the relationship between the attorney general’s office and state’s attorneys in each county? I began my career in the state’s attorney’s office, so I understand first hand the important relationship between the attorney general’s office and local prosecutors, especially when it comes to supporting local law enforcement and fighting public corruption. Historically, federal prosecutors and to some extent local prosecutors have played a more direct role in pursuing public corruption cases because of access to grand jury powers, which the attorney general does not have, and because of access to investigators and prosecutors – critical resources – to effectively handle these complex and important cases. The expansion of the grand jury power is worthy of exploration to the extent that the governor and legislature are prepared to appropriately resource the attorney general to exercise this new capacity. However, granting the statutory ability to impanel a grand jury, without access to sufficient resources and staff to follow through on the implied mandate to become more active in public corruption cases, would be a disservice to the people of Illinois. Thus, under the current system, cooperation between the attorney general and state’s attorneys across Illinois is paramount to ensuring the laws of the state are enforced in an equitable and effective manner.
What is the most important issue facing the attorney general’s office?How would you approach it? The office of a state attorney general has become a position of heightened importance during the Trump presidency because this administration in particular has aggressively sought to roll back policies that protect the legal and constitutional rights of ordinary people living in Illinois and throughout the country. Whether independently or in concert with attorneys general of other states, the Illinois Attorney General must be prepared to combat this administration’s attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act by eliminating insurance subsidies and related regulations, roll back protections for students victimized by campus sexual assault and student loan fraud, weaken penalties for nursing homes where patients are put at risk, end guaranteed fair access online and expose voters to attacks on their privacy and potentially discriminatory voter roll purges through the Crosscheck database. I will sustain Illinois’ involvement in ongoing multi-state lawsuits against the federal government and will stand ready to defend the rights of Illinois residents whenever they are put in jeopardy.
What other issues would you focus the attorney general’s office on? As Attorney General I will bring to fruition the pilot trauma center program I pushed for in the General Assembly in order to address trauma stemming from the violent crime that ravages already under-resourced communities. Evidence shows that untreated trauma feeds the cycle of violent crime when violence becomes normalized in a community and victims are disproportionately likely to become the next perpetrators. Having sponsored the legislation that created the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s Office, I plan to properly resource the office so as to eliminate the backlog of FOIA and Open Meetings Act complaints. Another of my priorities as attorney general will be responding quickly and effectively to allegations of labor law violations, through legislation I sponsored to expand the Workplace Rights Bureau.
What are your views on the legalization of marijuana debate? Illinois has moved in the direction of legalization by way of supporting the use of medical marijuana and expanding upon that to cover more ailments. We have also moved to decriminalize possession of small amounts for personal use. The logical extension of these policies is to move toward legalization in a manner that appropriately regulates manufacture and distribution while taxing it capture the new economic activity that would accompany recreational use.