Our View: Sharon Fairley for Democratic attorney general race

The eight candidates in the Democratic primary for attorney general offer an impressive array of experience.

The unexpected announcement last September from Democrat Lisa Madigan that she would not seek a fifth term has made the race one of the most interesting to watch in Illinois politics. It quickly attracted a large field for the Democratic primary: state Rep. Scott Drury; Sharon Fairley, the former chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in Chicago; attorney Aaron Goldstein; former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti; former Gov. Pat Quinn; state Sen. Kwame Raoul; Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering; and Chicago Park District leader Jesse Ruiz.

They more or less share similar viewpoints on most of the substantive issues. They would want to continue Madigan’s legacy of championing consumer protection. There is a sense more needs to be done to root out corruption in Illinois, and that it shouldn’t fall to federal prosecutors to do so. Government at all levels should be more transparent. The office needs to fight for environmental protections.

When looking at this crop of candidates for one of the most important offices in state government, we want to see a political outsider win this primary. Someone not indebted to the party and who has proven he or she has the courage to stand up to the powerful political players and special interest groups when necessary. Someone who will be an advocate for transparency and stand up for the best interests of taxpayers — and preferably someone who already has a track record of successfully doing so.

Someone like Sharon Fairley.

As a former federal prosecutor, she handled cases involving narcotics and firearms trafficking, violent crimes, financial crimes, complex fraud, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage cases. She served as an assistant attorney general, giving her experience in the office she now wants to lead. She rooted out government corruption and waste while with the Office of the Inspector General for the city of Chicago. And she created the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, where as chief administrator she instituted badly needed reforms and accountability for the Chicago Police Department.

The attorney general has a unique bully pulpit to advocate for changes. We believe Fairley when she says she would use it to strengthen the state Ethics Commission and Legislative Inspector General’s Office. And she doesn’t seem to be content to rely solely on the General Assembly for changes: She would establish a complaint line where residents could report allegations of misconduct by public officials. Knowing that resources are scarce, she wants to create a statewide public integrity task force where local, state and federal law enforcement agencies can coordinate and share strategies on how to best investigate public corruption.

She thinks big, but she also thinks smart and offers nuanced solutions to an array of issues likely to come before the attorney general’s office. Most importantly, no one in the Democratic Party owns her. She has a record of holding the powerful accountable in Chicago, and we are optimistic about her ability to do the same for the entire state.

As we said, this is a qualified group of people. We could comfortably endorse several of them. But we couldn’t ask for more in a candidate than what Fairley brings to the table. She has legal and administrative experience, and has the fortitude and willingness to fight for what is right.

Fairley is a proven independent agent of change, and that is why she gets our endorsement.