Editorial: Democrat for Illinois Attorney General: Fairley

The array of qualified public servants running for the Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general is an impressive one.

So it’s been a challenge for candidates to find a way to stand out amid a field of eight well-qualified candidates hoping to replace Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Making it even harder is that they share many of the same priorities and agree on most of the issues.

For us, however, none checked all the boxes as emphatically as former federal prosecutor Sharon Fairley.

It’s not that we weren’t impressed by the backgrounds, experiences and plans offered by:

  • State Sen. Scott Drury,
  • Chicago, a champion of criminal justice reform legislation, he has demonstrated his independence from House Speaker Michael Madigan, including by declining to vote for him for speaker.
  • Aaron Goldstein,
  • a Cook County public defender who wants to advance a busy (too busy?) agenda to “stand up to the big powers.” He said he’s “more of an anti-Chicago machine type” who “represents the people who are underrepresented.”
  • Pat Quinn
  • , former Illinois governor and state treasurer, and one-time political activist whose contributions to the state and the Q-C, are well known. So, unfortunately, are his close ties to the politics and decisions of the past that have helped create the mess Illinois finds itself in today.
  • State Sen. Kwame Raoul,
  • of Chicago, who has worked across the aisle and with Gov. Bruce Rauner to win criminal justice reforms. He said he’s known for tackling “middle-of-the-highway issues, when you get hit by traffic in both directions.” That includes gun control issues.
  • Nancy Rotering,
  • mayor of Highland Park, a city of 30,000 that helped lead the way in passing an assault weapon ban. She also played a part in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed such local laws to stand.
  • Jess Ruiz,
  • of Chicago, who has spent a lifetime in public service including serving as chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education and interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.
  • Renato Mariotti
  • , a former federal prosecutor, who is popular on social media. He has prosecuted a number of high-profile cases which has led to appearances on true crime shows including “American Greed.”

All make a case for voters to choose them, especially the two front-runners, Sen. Raoul, the choice of Democratic Party leaders, and Gov. Quinn. Clearly, they have the cash and name recognition Ms. Fairley lacks.

But if, like us, you want an attorney general without ties to the political class in Illinois, who has a record of going after government corruption and working aggressively but collaboratively to address it, Ms. Fairley gets the edge.

She also has worked in the office as an assistant attorney general and served eight years as a federal prosecutor. As AG, she says she would work to give teeth to the state Ethics Commission and Legislative Inspector General’s office. And she has the record to suggest she can get it done.

As the first deputy inspector general in Chicago, she went after corruption in city agencies. After the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, she was tapped to reform the Independent Police Review Authority, then helped set up the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability to replace it.

The trailblazer, who holds a law degree, an MBA, and a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, is no stranger to a tough fight.

“As the only black woman in the race, I was born into the Jim Crow era,” she told us. “I was a girl in the ‘60s during the race riots. I was a teenager in the ‘70s when the women’s rights movement was getting off the ground. I started my professional life in the ‘80s when women were fighting for equality in the workplace. I’ve been standing up for myself my whole professional life.”

We recommend voters consider putting those experiences and skills to work fighting for Illinois. She is recommended.