A Voter's Guide to Democratic Attorney General's Race

 /  March 6, 2018, 9:14 p.m.


During primary elections on March 20, Democratic voters in Illinois will choose between eight candidates who are running for Attorney General. Since the position is such an important one for Illinois’ legal system, it is crucial that voters understand and evaluate the platforms of the candidates who are running.

Why you should care

The role of Attorney General is the highest legal position in the State of Illinois, responsible for providing legal counsel to the Governor of Illinois and the Illinois General Assembly. Additionally, the Attorney General advocates for citizens’ legal rights—for example, current Attorney General Lisa Madigan leads several initiatives to increase women’s advocacy, especially in cases of sexual assault or domestic violence—and prosecutes campaign finance complaints. Thus, it is important that voters understand where candidates’ loyalties lie, and what interests they have represented and advanced in the past.


  1. Nancy Rotering received her JD at the University of Chicago, an MBA in health service management, marketing and finance at Northwestern University, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University. She has spent much of her professional career in politics, working as a planning commissioner in her hometown of Highland Park and as a legislative aide to Rep. Karen May before being elected as the first female mayor of Highland Park in 2011. On her campaign website, Rotering states that if elected, she will fight the NRA and the pharmaceutical companies contributing to drug crises in Illinois, and advocate for women, LGBTQ individuals, the environment and organized labor, among other groups.
  2. Jesse Ruiz was born and raised in Chicago. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his JD from the University of Chicago. Since graduating, Ruiz has served as Interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (2015), President of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, and Chairman of the Illinois Board of Education. Ruiz has also worked as an attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath, where, as the son of Mexican immigrants himself, he focused particularly on advocating for Hispanic/Latinx communities.
  3. Sharon Fairley received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University, an MBA in marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a JD from the University of Chicago. She has extensive professional experience in public service; she served as Assistant Attorney General in Illinois from 2006-2007, Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois from 2007-2015, and Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority in Chicago from 2015-2017. She was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune for Attorney General in an editorial earlier this year. In terms of policy, Fairley’s demonstrated commitment to controlling and decreasing police violence is notable.
  4. Kwame Raoul was born and raised in the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago. He received his bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and JD from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Since graduation, Raoul has had about twenty-five years of experience in the legal field, starting as a prosecutor in the Cook County State Attorney’s office, and later working as a Labor and Employment Attorney for the City Colleges of Chicago. Since 2004, Raoul has also been involved in politics—he has served as the Representative of the 13th District in the Illinois State Senate. As a senator in Illinois, Raoul has worked extensively on criminal justice reform. Additionally, he has passed bills related to the opioid crisis, and has consistently advocated for women, especially victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
  5. Pat Quinn received his bachelor’s degree in international economics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and his JD from Northwestern University of Law. Quinn has almost twenty-five years of experience in Illinois politics—he served as State Treasurer from 1991-1995, Lt. Governor from 2003-2009, and Governor from 2009-2015. According to his campaign website, Quinn has decided to run for Attorney General so that he can stand up for Illinois residents against Donald Trump’s “unconstitutional and hateful policies.” In his time as Governor, Quinn has worked to reduce corruption in Illinois, increase consumer protections, and enfranchise more voters.
  6. Renato Mariotti received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago before attending Yale Law School for his J.D. After graduating, Mariotti has worked as a clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals, an assistant federal prosecutor, and a partner with Thompson Coburn LLP. According to Ballotpedia, his primary areas of activity as a federal prosecutor included “gun trafficking, tax evasion, fraud, obstruction of justice, public corruption [and] child exploitation.”
  7. Aaron Goldstein received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his JD from the University of Iowa College of Law. Since graduation, he has worked in politics and law as a supervising attorney for the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and a Democratic Committeeman for the 33rd Ward in the Cook County Democratic Party. He has also held instructor/adjunct professor positions at North Park and DePaul Universities, where he taught criminal law and coached the trial advocacy team. As Committeeman, he has challenged anti-democratic practices within the Cook County Democratic Party and has advocated for the poor and for racial minorities.
  8. Scott Drury received his bachelor’s degree in political economy of industrialized societies from the University of California, Berkeley, and his JD from the Northwestern University School of Law. In his professional career, he has spent almost twenty years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago and at law firms such as Reed Smith LLP. In 2016, he founded his own law firm: Drury Law. He was elected State Representative in 2013 and has since served on the House Judiciary—Criminal Committee and the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, among others. His priorities are reforming state finance and criminal justice issues.

The Bottom Line

In summary, the Democratic Attorney General race includes a wide variety of candidates, from long time Illinois politicians to relative newcomers. According to most recent polls, the race will likely come down to a battle between Pat Quinn, who appears dominant down state, and Kwame Raoul, who is polling better in cities like Chicago and nearby suburbs. Since the winner of this primary will in all likelihood dominate in the general election, voters should carefully consider who best represents their beliefs. For more information, we encourage readers to check out the Chicago Sun-Times profiles of the candidates: Scott Drury, Sharon Fairley, Aaron Goldstein, Renato Mariotti, Pat Quinn, Nancy Rotering, Jesse Ruiz, Gary Grasso, Erika Harold, Kwame Raoul.

The featured image is licensed under the Creative Commons; the original can be found here.

Alexandra C. Price

Alexandra Price is a third-year History and Russian Eastern European Studies double major particularly interested in the Cold War and modern developments in the former Eastern Bloc. As the 2016 recipient of the Gate's annual Reporting Grant, she spent a summer in Germany reporting on refugee integration in Berlin. When she's not writing for the Gate, Alexandra loves to study foreign languages, read, and take long bike rides around the city.


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