By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
A forum held recently at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, where eight Democratic Illinois Attorney General candidates highlighted their credentials, went well until one candidate ticked off Senator Kwame Raoul who came out swinging in defense of his legislative record.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and PUSH COO Bonita Parker moderated the forum firing questions at the candidates, but it was attorney Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor and assistant attorney general, who pushed Raoul’s button to the breaking point.
Fairley said she is trying to make history in this race. “I’m actually trying to become the first Black female attorney general from the state of Illinois.” Saying this state has some “serious, serious problems that” have not been addressed like the inability to pass the ban on assault weapons.
Fairley criticized state lawmakers for not passing a ban on assault weapons. “She tried to take a swipe at me based on my willingness to work on gun policy, which is a very difficult policy from a legislative standpoint because you have people downstate and other parts of the state who don’t think the same,” Raoul said.
“You can run away from the debate or you can engage in the debate. I chose to engage in the debate. As a result, we have a law that requires reporting of loss and stolen weapons.
“We have universal background checks. If you transfer a gun in a private transaction, you have to check to see if that person has a valid FOID card. She made a reference to a window that was put on an assault weapons ban but that happened in the House of Representatives. I didn’t vote for the conceal carry,” Raoul said calling Fairley’s remarks “revisionist history.”
During the forum, Raoul turned towards Fairley and said she “is talking from the lens of having lived downtown” and said she is not from Chicago or Illinois. “During most of her time here, she’s lived downtown in Trump Towers.
“I live in a community where I have had to come home and talk to my kids about gun violence that has taken place directly in front of my home,” he told Fairley.
“I have the community perspective on this. That is why I work on the policy. I don’t work on the policy from the populist focus of one portion of gun policy…being the assault weapons ban.”
The senator said people from the suburbs like Highland Park who live in different communities have resources. “I live in a community that has been under-resourced and, as a result, we have normalized violence that comes at the hand of handguns,” said Raoul.
Senator Raoul said this is why he focuses his policy on trying to bring resources to the community and “trying to ban this flow of guns to people who should not have them.”
Also on the forum where they sometimes asked each other questions were Attorney Aaron Goldstein, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, Chicago Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz, Illinois Representative Scott Drury, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
When Jackson asked Raoul why he wanted to be Illinois’ States Attorney, the senator said voters already know him because he’s worked on such issues as voting rights, passed the Illinois Voting Rights Act, passed a bill recently “to make sure we don’t participate in Donald Trump’s crosscheck…. I’m not introducing myself. You know me, and I’m just getting started.”
Jesse Ruiz wants to be attorney general because having grown up as a son of Mexican immigrants whose father was a farmer with a third grade education, he was blessed to live the “American dream” he now says is under attack “by our very own president and governor.” Now a lawyer, he “wants to keep that path open” for others.
Born in Chicago to parents who did not go to college, Renato Mariotti, a Yale Law School graduate, became a federal prosecutor “going after white collar crime, people who were manipulating the financial markets, people taking advantage of our seniors, and people who are preying on our communities….” After battling and defeating cancer, he wants to stand up against the Trump administration and rich and powerful people who are taking things away” from the poor.
Scott Drury is running for attorney general “to clean up the state of Illinois…, to clean up the criminal justice system we know is not just…. I want to make sure that (former Police Commander) Jon Burge never happens again in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago.” He’s also running to “clean up the Democratic Party.”
Nancy Rotering wants to be attorney general because “our city, state and nation are in a crises, and we need an advocate…we need someone who is independent, principled, has integrity and has experience.” A mother of four and mayor for seven-years, Rotering said she stood up to the NRA and won, stood up to the utilities and created a legal aid clinic.”
Aaron Goldstein wants to be attorney general because he has stood up “for all of us in this unjust criminal justice system…for people who didn’t have a voice” while he was in law school. He became a Cook County public defender to change that system. He said this criminal justice system is “racist” and now he wants to stand up “to the tyrant in the White House….” He wants to end mass incarceration, end this racist drug war, and reform the cash bail bonds system….”
Sharon Fairley wants to fix pension reform, inequities in education, a broken criminal justice system and police brutality. Fairley said she has the experience and independence “to get things done.”
Pat Quinn boasted that he signed the Affordable Care Health Act in Illinois. “We have over 1 million people in health care because of Barack Obama’s law. I believe in Obamacare. That means I do care. That means the attorney general has to fight harder for people who need decent health care.”
Saying he was with Rev. Jackson 17 years ago in front of Peoples Gas, Quinn said, “We sang, ‘We shall overcome.’” We’re not letting those big gas companies shut people down. We got to have an attorney general who stands up to Peoples Gas and all their big money.”
On assault weapons, Quinn said, “We’re not going to let NRA run America. We’re going to stand up to them.” Saying he believes in criminal justice reform, Quinn said he signed the anti-death penalty in Illinois and approved almost 5,000 clemencies. “I freed Howard Morgan…” and others. “They were unjustly convicted….”
Referring to the 17 children and educators killed in Florida, Rev. Jackson said in Chicago since 2011, 166 people under 17 have been killed and 1,635 have been shot. It’s time for a change everywhere.”