Lawyer Jesse Ruizwho is a former top official with both the Illinois and Chicago boards of education and now serves as president of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissionersis facing off against several other prominent Illinoisans to take over the post being vacated by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Among his Democratic opponents opponents in the race are Aaron Goldstein, Renato Mariotti, Nancy Rotering, Scott Drury and Pat Quinn. On the Republican side, Erika Harold and Gary Grasso are also vying for the position.
Windy City Times: What prompted your run?
Jesse Ruiz:Lisa Madigan is an old friend and she's told me how much she loves her job, and how much you can help people in this office. She said, "As a lawyer, it's the best job in the state." I agree with her, especially now, when there are so many attacks on our rights. I've called it an attack on the American dream, from our own president and governor. So now it's critical that attorneys general stand up, especially when it's our own president who's trying to attack our constitutional rights.
I've had 21-year career as an attorney. I've been engaged in public service on a volunteer basis for almost that entire time. It's always something that's been part of my life. As the son of Mexican immigrants, who has grown up in this country and had a chance at the American dream, I want to make sure that everyone else continues to have the same chance. It's my way of honoring my parents' sacrifice on my behalf and the opportunities this country has given me and my family. It's also in my self-interest: Illinois is losing population. I've got a son who's going away to college next fall, and I want to make sure that, if he goes out of state, he's got a great home to come back to in Illinois.
WCT: Would you be running if Lisa Madigan was?
JR:I would not. I think she's done an admirable job as attorney general. I've always said that I wouldn't pursue an office if I didn't think I could do a better job than the person who has it, or is running against me, and I know I could do a better job than all of my opponents. That's why I'm running.
WCT: What kind of continuity could you offer then?
JR:Her ardent support of consumers. Her ardent support of the LGBTQ community's rights. Her standing up for an open and honest government. Making sure that we protect the environment. Those are critical functions of the office, and I'm going to continue that work.
But some of those challenges change. When she came into office, one big challenge facing the state was the methamphetamine epidemic. Largely because of her office's hard work, they made changes and confronted that issue. But now we have a new issue, the opioid crisis. So the challenges change and consumer issues change. We're now suing Equifaxour privacy and our data is at risk, our information can be at risk. In the Information Age, it can be evermore critical that we protect it.
You've [also] got a president systemically dismantling the EPA and not fully staffing the Region 5 office here in the northern part of the state of Illinois. Somebody's got to be mindful and protective of our environmentif your environment is killing you, there is no American dream.
WCT: What advantages do you have over your opponents in the election?
JR:I've been a long-serving attorney. As Lisa likes to call the attorney general's office, it's "the largest public interest law firm in the state." At about 375 lawyers, it's a pretty big law firm. Knowing how to manage and work in a large law firm setting is critical. Also having management experienceI was chairman of the state board of education and vice-president of the Chicago Board of Education. I was interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools ( CPS ). When CPS was in a state of crisis because it's CEO was under federal investigation, the mayor turned to me to run the third-largest school district in America.
WCT: What work have you done or engagement have you had with the LGBT community?
JR:I've always been engaged in diversity in the legal profession, and diversity in all its senses. I was very proud that I was one of the charter members of our firm's LGBTQ affinity group, supporting those efforts in the firm. I was proud that, serving as chair of the state board of education, I hired the first openly gay state superintendent of education in Illinois, Dr. Chris Koch, and the first openly gay general counsel at the state board of education. I think it was critical to have those people there, first because they were the most qualified individuals, but also because their perspective as gay men also helped guide our policies and our direction … with the mindset of being inclusive and respectful of everyone's rights.
WCT: From the attorney general's perspective, what are some issues that are important for LGBT illinoisans?
JR:Making sure that we protect our rights and fully support the Human Rights Act. Making sure that when there are cases before the Supreme Court that we file amicus briefs on the right side of what should be the outcome. No one should be discriminated against or withheld services from because of their sexual orientation in any way, shape or form. Discrimination against any group is discrimination against us all, and we need to make sure that we protect every single community, but especially the almost 400,000 LGBTQ people who are citizens of Illinois.
See jesse4il.com .