Kwame Raoul campaigns with Congressman John Lewis, Brendan Kelly
Name: Kwame Raoul
Office seeking: Attorney General
City of residence: Chicago
Campaign website: www.kwameraoul.com
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I am seeking this office because it is the natural extension of the advocacy that has been my life’s work. This position is more important than at any other time in our nation’s history, and it is important to elect an attorney general who will step up, not only to enforce our state laws but also take the federal government to court when it undermines the rule of law and violates legal and constitutional rights. I am the son of immigrants, a father and a cancer survivor. My father was an old-fashioned community physician who never turned away a patient who was unable to pay. He taught me that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. Fifteen years ago, I lost my father to prostate cancer, and three years ago, I was diagnosed. I am a survivor because my health coverage gave me access to early detection and high-quality care, and I believe everyone deserves the same chance. I’m also the father of two college-aged children, and I’ve worried about their safety and opportunities. Being a parent has fueled my determination to take on threats to our young people as attorney general.
What qualifications do you have for this position? During my 25 years of practicing law and 14 years in the state Senate, I have been involved in a wide variety of law and policy issues related to the duties of the Attorney General’s office, including voting rights, workers’ rights, criminal justice reform, public safety, consumer protection, education, health care access, the environment, the rights of domestic violence and sexual assault victims and the protection of working families. I have served as a prosecutor, practiced education and health law, represented workers in labor and employment cases, represented those falsely accused of crimes and taken on civil rights cases. While serving in the General Assembly, I actively advanced policies such as protections for victims of domestic violence, comprehensive law enforcement and sentencing reform, and coverage standards for people with chronic illness and preexisting conditions. With this background, I am uniquely qualified to transition from legislating to prosecuting, advocating and enforcing as the state’s attorney general.
What changes would you make to the Attorney General’s office and why? First, I will ensure that the division of the Public Access Counselor is adequately resourced in order to eliminate the backlog in FOIA and Open Meetings Act complaints. “Sunlight,” Justice Brandeis wrote, is “the best of disinfectants.” Illinois’ government must work for the people of Illinois, and that requires transparency and accountability. Members of the press and general public alike deserve prompt investigation and resolution of issues they have with government bodies that may not be complying with the laws that safeguard open government. I will also be a more active advocate on criminal justice reform, building on my work in the General Assembly. I will distribute crime victims’ assistance funding to the communities that have suffered the most from violent crime, and I will strengthen the workplace rights division so that claims of Equal Pay Act violations, wage theft and related offenses are promptly investigated and prosecuted.
How much of a role should the Attorney General’s office take in reviewing/investigating clergy abuse? There is nothing more important than protecting our children. The Office of the Attorney General should play an active role in thoroughly investigating and promptly prosecuting all sex crimes against children and attempts by any institution to cover them up or avoid reporting them to authorities. Clergy abuse is a type of criminal activity that has had far-ranging and tragic repercussions in the lives of many, and it is far more widespread than previously thought. I commend Attorney General Lisa Madigan for promptly involving herself in this matter and providing a hotline for victims to report. I will continue her efforts and work with my counterparts in other states, including Attorney General Shapiro of Pennsylvania, who have already made significant headway in investigating and prosecuting these cases.
What issues would you focus on as Attorney General? As attorney general, I will use the office’s bully pulpit and my role as an advocate to urge passage of commonsense criminal justice reform 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 toward giving second chances to nonviolent offenders, cracking down on repeat gun offenders and appropriately focusing the resources of the corrections and justice systems. Another of my top priorities will be the proper resourcing and staffing of the Office of the Public Access Counselor in order to eliminate the backlog in FOIA and Open Meetings Act complaints. Finally, I will ensure that my office responds quickly and effectively to allegations of labor law violations. As a sponsor of legislation to expand the Workplace Rights Bureau, I will adequately staff this division to handle complaints of wage theft, failure to pay prevailing wage, employee misclassification and other violations by corporations against their workers.
Would you term limit yourself? If so, how many terms? It is hard to predict what initiatives will be ongoing at each point in my service as attorney general, but my vision is to limit myself to two terms, in the spirit of passing on the baton of leadership to new generations and fresh perspectives.