Attorney General Candidate
Questions & Answers
|For the November 2018 Election|
What is the importance of the Illinois Attorney General to your constituents in Champaign County?
Illinois’ Attorney General has three primary roles, in my view: to protect, represent and advocate. The Attorney General protects the people of Illinois by aggressively pursuing consumer protection actions, appropriately distributing crime victims’ assistance resources to benefit those who need them most, going after rogue corporations that violate Illinois labor laws and fighting back against federal overreach when it threatens the rights of Illinois residents. The AG must ably represent the State of Illinois in civil matters in which it is the defendant or plaintiff. The Attorney General also interprets the law and the state constitution when the governor and General Assembly request legal opinions. Finally, the position of top lawyer and statewide elected official affords the AG a crucial bully pulpit to advocate for policies that benefit the people of Illinois and make justice more accessible and even-handed in this state.
Drawing on my law career, in which I handled a wide variety of cases from workers’ compensation to child welfare to criminal proceedings, and my 14 years in the Illinois Senate, I will have the experience and acumen to hit the ground running on my first day as Attorney General. I am prepared to serve the people of Champaign County and all of Illinois through effective consumer protection, representation and advocacy. In particular, the years I spent serving as counsel to the City Colleges of Chicago, as well as my work on related issues in the General Assembly, have given me a valuable perspective on Illinois higher education and the needs of communities that support and rely on colleges and universities. I will continue to sound the alarm for adequate funding for state-run universities and the MAP grants that make them more accessible to Illinois students. Additionally, I will use my position to fight against the Trump administration’s attempts to strip protections from LGBTQ students and victims of campus sexual assault and to discourage international students from studying in the U.S. through draconian travel and immigration restrictions. I will continue the current Attorney General’s practice of taking on institutions that take financial advantage of students and workers burdened with student loan debt.
Beyond higher education, I am committed to standing up for ordinary Illinoisans who work hard to try to make ends meet at a time when income inequality is growing and many residents are not reaping the benefits of equal protection under the law. Many Illinois voters have lost faith in our system of government and rightly demand greater openness and access. As Attorney General, I can step into these gaps as advocate – in court, vis-à-vis the General Assembly and in the public square. The Attorney General is uniquely positioned to protect consumers from excessive utility rates, from excessive fees charged by financial institutions, from workplace rights violations, from fraudulent schemes and from the lasting trauma of having been the victim of a crime. It would be an honor to work for Champaign County residents and all Illinoisans in this capacity.
Why are you qualified to be Illinois Attorney General?
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 comprehensive law enforcement and sentencing reform, protections for victims of domestic violence and limits on excessive payroll debit card fees. With this background, I am uniquely qualified to transition from legislating to prosecuting, advocating and enforcing as the state’s Attorney General. In particular, my experience crafting and passing criminal justice reform legislation will allow me to use the office of Attorney General to continue making Illinois’ justice system more equitable and effective.
What is a key policy difference between you and your Primary Opponent[s]?
The most relevant difference is that I am willing to stand up to the Trump administration when Illinoisans’ rights, Illinois laws and American values are threatened, and my opponent is not. I support lawsuits filed against the federal government by the current attorney general, such as those against the federal Environmental Protection Agency for endangering Illinois’ natural resources with its lax enforcement of environmental standards at the Foxconn site in Wisconsin, against the Department of Justice to get back millions in law enforcement dollars taken from Illinois communities, and against the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality. I will also pursue legal actions made necessary by the federal government’s neglect – for example, suits against predatory student loan companies.
My legislative record demonstrates my commitment to protecting Illinoisans; I sponsored legislation to remove Illinois from a flawed voter database (Crosscheck) that puts our voters’ personal information at risk and is prone to disenfranchising people legally entitled to vote. Governor Rauner vetoed this bill, but I plan to use the position of attorney general to aggressively investigate all interference in Illinois elections and do everything in my power to safeguard voter privacy.
I co-sponsored the legislative measure that expanded Medicaid in Illinois under the Affordable Care Act, and as attorney general, I will be prepared to defend the ACA in court, challenging the Trump administration’s attempts to gut it and take affordable health coverage away from working families. My opponent has stated her opposition to the ACA.
I’ve consistently supporting a woman’s right to choose, sponsoring and voting for legislation that protects the right of a woman to be informed about all her reproductive healthcare options, requires Medicaid and state employee insurance to cover abortions, and ensures access to affordable birth control. Because defending choice is part of my life’s work, I am ready to lead in responding to judicial challenges to these vital protections, and I will make sure that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Illinois will still allow women to safely and legally make personal choices about their bodies, families and health. My opponent has stated that she opposes abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
I also sponsored legislation that would create a Workplace Rights Division within the Office of the Attorney General and allow the attorney general to investigate and prosecute labor violations directly, without forcing wronged workers to go through a multi-step process. With the governor on the attack against unions and the Supreme Court unwilling to protect collective bargaining, I will stand up for Illinois workers as attorney general.
My opponent calls these kinds of lawsuits and actions “purely political” and has not shown that she is willing to lead the fight for Illinoisans’ rights and values. My opponent often speaks of merely enforcing the law, but these unprecedented times require a strong, proactive advocate. I will be this advocate for workers and families throughout Illinois.
Is there anything else you would like to say to an undecided voter in Champaign County?
Elections have consequences. With so many of our rights under attack, the role of attorney general has never been more important. As a cancer survivor and the son of a community physician, I will protect Illinoisans’ access to affordable healthcare. As the child of Haitian immigrants, I understand the contributions immigrants make to our economy and society, and I’ll stand up to a federal administration that derides and discriminates against those coming to our borders. As a father of two, I will crack down on sexual predators who target children and make sure families have the support they need. Inspired by my personal experiences, my family and all I’ve learned in my career of advocacy, I’ll fight for the rights of Illinoisans as the next attorney general.