ENDORSEMENT: Sharon Fairley for attorney general in Democratic primary

Sun-Times Editorial Board

On the morning we interviewed the eight Democratic candidates for Illinois attorney general, we walked into a room full of people we respect. It was a good crowd.

An hour later, Sharon Fairley clearly had carried the day.

We endorse Fairley today in the Democratic primary for many sound reasons. Her experience as a lawyer and administrator is excellent, her record of championing integrity in government and police work is unmatched, and her agenda for the attorney general’s office is on target.

But perhaps above all, Fairley has a certain clear-headed centeredness, an independence of mind and spirit that could make her a particularly effective attorney general. She showed that trait again on Sunday during a Democratic attorney general candidates’ forum hosted by this newspaper along with Cards for Humanity.

Fairley is looking to replace incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is not running for reelection. Madigan has been a commendable AG, but her office’s range has been constricted by the fact that her father is House Speaker Michael Madigan, the most powerful Democrat in the state. Lisa Madigan is not about to dig too deeply into problems of public corruption and ethics.

Fairley says she would do just that —  using the bully pulpit of the AG’s office, for example, to strengthen the powers of the state Ethics Commission and Legislative Inspector General’s office — and her record backs up the promise.

She was an assistant attorney general in the office she now hopes to run. She was a federal prosecutor for eight years. She was Chicago’s deputy inspector general. She worked the last two years creating a new city watchdog agency — the Civilian Office of Police Accountability — to investigate police use of force and allegations of misconduct.

As we say, this is a strong field. A principled former governor, Pat Quinn, is vying for the job. Chicago Park District board President Jesse Ruiz has a long record of appointed public service. State Rep. Scott Drury took the lead in passing groundbreaking legislation designed to end wrongful convictions in Illinois.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering has been a vocal proponent of more responsible gun laws. State Sen. Kwame Raoul worked with downstate Republican legislators to minimize the negative impact on Chicago of a concealed-carry gun law. Renato Mariottiis a former federal prosecutor. And attorney Aaron Goldstein has a pointed progressive agenda, including going after irresponsible gun sellers.

Every candidate impresses us, but Fairley is our choice in this highly competitive Democratic primary for this important office.