Manar endorses Raoul for Attorney General

Manar endorses Raoul for Attorney General

CARLINVILLE (Feb. 1, 2018) – Last Tuesday afternoon, State Sen. Andy Manar formally endorsed his Senate colleague, Kwame Raoul, who is a Democratic candidate for Attorney General, after visits to several downstate communities, including Carlinville. Earlier that morning, the pair hosted a meet-and-greet at Refuge Coffee House.

“I want him to win,” Manar said. “I think he by far is the most qualified candidate of any of the Democrats running in the primary.”

Raoul, who was initially appointed to the State Senate to fill the 13th District vacancy left in 2004 by the election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate, said he took to heart some advice Obama gave him before leaving for D.C.: “Make sure you spend some time with people who you don’t perceive to be just like you. Don’t spend all your time with people from the inner city of Chicago. Get to know people from other parts of the state and people on the other side of the aisle. Become friends with them. Get to know what you have in common, but also learn about your differences without letting them divide you. Have enough patience to hear out the other side.”

“I’ve done so, and I’ve made some genuine friends,” Raoul said. “It’s benefited me, because I’ve been known for taking on assignments that were unpopular assignments that the legislature has had to confront — an example was the negotiations around concealed carry. It’d come to the point where we were the only state in the nation that had not embraced a concealed carry law. We were mandated by federal court. It was an issue that most of the members, particularly from my region, were running away from. I asked the Senate President for the opportunity to partake in the negotiations.”

Raoul said one of his priorities, if elected, is giving the public access counselor of the Attorney General’s Office — who helps people obtain public documents and access public meetings — the appropriate resources she needs to do her job, as he was a sponsor of the legislation that initially created the position. “There’s a huge backlog,” he said. “I think whoever presides in the Attorney General’s Office prioritizes different things. Given that I created the public access counselor, I would make sure it’s appropriately resourced to process the claims that exist.” He also thinks the public access counselor can provide local governments with best practices regarding Freedom of Information Act requests.

Raoul said he has a 17-year-old daughter, and as such is concerned about sexual assault on campuses. He, along with colleague Toi Hutchinson, negotiated a bill with the state’s higher education institutions regarding policymaking to protect students from sexual assault on campus. “This is critical because the federal Department of Education is backing off of these policies, so it’s important at the state level to have such policies,” he said.

Relatedly, he worked on bipartisan legislation to pilot trauma recovery centers. “When you begin to treat a rape victim as a victim first and the complaining witness second, you actually solve more crimes; you get more accurate information,” than if you treat them primarily as someone who witnessed a crime instead of as someone who may need mental health or other services. “One of the critical services that the Attorney General’s Office offers is victims’ services, and the Attorney General also serves on the board of the Criminal Justice Information Authority, that presides over resources that are given to deal with victimized communities. That is one of the unique priorities that I have that has not been discussed by the other candidates.”

Healthcare is another priority for Raoul, in part because his father, who was an immigrant from Haiti, was a naturalized citizen who served poor communities as a community physician for 30 years. “He used to literally come home with fruitcake or a block of cheese or food because somebody wouldn’t have all the resources to pay,” Raoul said. “I lost my father a year to the date before I entered the General Assembly to prostate cancer — the same disease that took both of my grandfathers, and I myself was diagnosed two years ago. The blessing of access to health insurance and facilities close by to be detected early and had my surgery middle of session. It was a humbling time, but I’m blessed to sit here with a good prognosis.” He added, “I’ve advocated for a lot of hospitals around the state — critical access hospitals and safety net hospitals — that are trying to continue to provide that service in communities.”

Asked to identify the biggest problem currently facing the state and what his role would be in it if he were elected, Raoul said, “We continue to face fiscal challenges in the state.” Though he noted the Attorney General’s Office doesn’t have much to do with changing revenue or expenditures of the overall state government, he said he would look for opportunities to “self-generate revenue to appropriately resource the Attorney General’s Office so it’s not as reliant on general revenue.”

He also pointed to Chicago being perceived internationally as a capital of gun violence. “It hurts the state at large,” he said. “I’ve actually had to go home personally on multiple occasions and deal with incidents of gunfire directly outside my home, deal with my daughter and her mother having to hit the ground because of gunfire outside of my home, telling my son when he was 13 that a 13-year-old boy was shot across the street from our home.”

“What we know is it’s not concealed carry holders who are committing this violence,” he said. “What we know is that there is a flow of guns getting into the hands of people that we know are not eligible to have them, gangbangers that we know are going to hurt people. That’s why I sponsored legislation to hold repeat gun offenders accountable. What we also know is there are neighborhoods far worse than mine, not just in Chicago, but in other parts of the state, that experience this violence, and these kids have it such that that violence is normalized for them, so someone who starts out a victim, just like my kids, can evolve into being a perpetrator because they think it’s normal.”

Raoul said the primary thing that distinguishes him from his opponents is his record, as he has served in the legislature for 13 years and has worked with the Attorney General’s Office on several pieces of legislation, including that for the public access counselor.

“The fascinating thing about the Attorney General’s Office that makes it such an attractive job is that it’s multi-faceted,” he said, noting his background — which includes more than 25 years practicing law in a variety of settings — would be helpful. “Then I supplement that with my 13 years of being in the legislature.”

Raoul said he shares the same values as most people: “wanting to provide for my kids, wanting a safe place, wanting an opportunity to grow a business.  That interest is a common interest whether you’re from the north part of the state, east, west, south or central. There’s going to be differences on policy, that’s understandable, but we should be able to work across the aisle, across regions, to get things done, and I’ve committed myself to overcoming the divide that is perceived over the course of my career.”