Former Gov. Pat Quinn is vying for the state attorney general's post that is being vacated by Lisa Madigan. Among his Democratic opponents opponents in the race are Aaron Goldstein, Renato Mariotti, Nancy Rotering, Scott Drury and Jesse Ruiz. On the Republican side, Erika Harold and Gary Grasso are also vying for the post.
Windy City Times: What prompted your run for the attorney general's office?
Pat Quinn: More than anything, coming home at night and watching TV, seeing [President Donald] Trump and his allies jeopardize our democracy. Around the country, the last line of defense against Trump are the state attorneys general who are taking him to court when he violates the constitution or a state law. We never expected Lisa would retirethat happened kind of suddenly, so it felt kind of important for this office, given Trump and his hateful policies.
WCT: What have you been working on since the last election?
PQ: I was inducted into the [Chicago LGBT] Hall of Fame. That was quite an honor. I do a lot with veterans and service members, such as Gold Star families, fathers and mothers who've lost their son or daughter in combat. I do a lot with hunger issues as well, as well as with school children. When you're governor, people call every day for events and fundraisers, and I've tried to continue to do that the past three years. In my opinion, the heart of America is in the heart of a volunteer. I'm still quite active as well in the homelessness area. You know, a third of the homeless are veterans.
WCT: Where would you place yourself in a continuity with Attorney General Madigan? You of course worked with her for a number of years, so how do you envision leading the office, versus the way she has?
PQ: She's done a very good job, having been attorney general for 16 years. We particularly worked closely on the whole issue of representing consumers, especially in utility matters. I started a group called Citizens Utilities Board ( CUB ) 35 years ago, and its Illinois' largest consumer group. CUB of course works closely with the attorney general, to make sure that utilities don't overcharge consumers and don't have unfair policies for their use of phones, electricity and gas. When I was governor, I had veto bills where Commonwealth Edison was really out of line, trying to overcharge consumers and Lisa Madigan was right by my side. We were very close on [other issues like] identity theft, and anything to do with protecting people in the marketplace. … During the impeachment of my predecessor and his conviction, I worked closely with the attorney general to navigate Illinois through a difficult time. We had a very positive relationship all the way through.
WCT: What are some of the biggest challenges to Illinoisans the attorney general can tackle? You've already spoken about protections against Trump-era policy.
PQ: A very important issue right now is obviously affordable healthcare. Trump is threatening that. I've walked across Illinois, literally from Rock Island to Chicago, back in 2001, on behalf of decent health care for everybody. When I was governor, I signed the bill to make the Affordable Care Act apply to Illinois, when we got the federal money to expand health care coverage. Over a million people got health care because of that law and I think it's important to defend it from attack by Trump or anyone else, so I think that's a real key issue for the attorney general.
We've also got to be careful that our fundamental rightsto speak, to have freedom of the press and assemblyare guarded. We take these things for granted, but democracy has to be protected. I've been walking in many rallies and marches for the past three years, especially the last year, to make sure that these fundamental freedoms are protected. That's important not just because of Trump, but [Gov. Bruce] Rauner and Springfield have threatened a lot of things in Illinois over the years, especially funding for things like education. If there are any kind of breaches of the law, it's the job of the attorney general to step forward and defend people.
WCT: I know that you regard signing the marriage-equality bill as one of your proudest accomplishments. Looking ahead, what kind of work would you tackle on behalf of LGBT Illinois residents?
PQ: I'm very concerned about discrimination, harassment and bullying. When I was governor I signed laws to stop it. There are hate-crimes unfortunately, so the attorney general has to be a vigorous enforcer of our laws. We don't anyone harassed, bullied or otherwise discriminated against. I'm also concerned with housing issues and people not being able to get the housing that they need because of discrimination. I think that there's still discrimination in the employment sector as well.
With respect to marriage equality, not a day goes by where I'm at a restaurant or a public place and a person or two will come up to me and say, "We got married because of you." That will be on my tombstone. It was a grassroots battle that we'll never forget. We got a wakeup call in 2016. Every voter counts, and our democracy, in my opinion, is in jeopardy as long as Trump continues his hateful policies. It's really important that the attorney general join with other attorneys general to take on hate and unfairness.
See quinnforillinois.com .