Document Publication | Fri February 09, 2018, 08:59 AM EST
Why are you running for Attorney General?
When I am Attorney General, Illinois will see real progressive reform, one that helps all the people of Illinois. We will have brought back the idea that fairness matters, that no one gets left behind just because they are not wealthy, connected or an insider.
Our local, state and federal governments have either refused or failed to push forward progressive programs and values. As Attorney General, I will be in a unique position to go into court and be the attorney for all Illinoisans.
As Attorney General, I will take on the big banks, corporations, and the right-wing agenda led by Donald Trump. I will accomplish real criminal justice reform that ends mass incarceration, eliminates the unjust and unfair drug war, reform the cash bail process that discriminates against people with limited means, and I will accomplish real, long overdue, police reform to ensure that police represent, rather than intimidate, the good citizens of our state. And I will fight corruption and cronyism that distorts our democracy in state and local governments.
What makes you stand out from the others?
My professional career and my agenda as Attorney General. I have the most courtroom and trial experience in this race. As a Public Defender and in private practice, I have spent my career representing individuals--real people--in criminal and civil rights cases. My opponents have all come from the board room or the prosecutor’s office. As an elected official, I have taken on the machine and won. When people said I couldn’t win, I proved them wrong. I am the only candidate who has openly supported progressive candidates for office including Bernie Sanders. I walk the walk: I will not take money from the rich and powerful corporations.
I have proposed unique, progressive solutions to the many long-lasting problems facing our state. I believe that to stop the spread of gun violence in our communities we must go after the gun manufacturers and the NRA who, obviously, have a vested interest in selling more guns.
To achieve real police reform, we must involve the community. I am the only one who will make sure the community is involved with the power to enforce the potential consent decree with the Chicago Police Department.
As Attorney General, I will not only protect the environment, but I also will come up with unique solutions to turn the tide on climate change. Fighting to protect the environment is fighting to protect the health, safety and economy of Illinois.
Within the Attorney General’s office, I will create a public integrity bureau that will investigate corruption and make sure the sexual harassment that is going on in Springfield does not continue. I will stand up for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and immigrants.
As Attorney General, I will take on Donald Trump. Fighting Trump means standing up for the rights of our state and our hard-working people whom the powerful are trying to crush or discard. It means standing with other states working to defend our fundamental American values of democracy and justice. I will be a true advocate for progressive change—someone who stands up for all, so we can turn the page on this very disturbing chapter in our history.
What are your priorities?
I have a progressive agenda. My first priority is to stand up to the vested interests in our state and beyond that have created exclusivity, economic stagnation, lack of opportunity and hope for the future, and a diminishing quality of life for most Illinoisans. As Attorney General, I will take on the big powers-- big corporations, big banks and political power brokers--that hurt and disrupt Illinois. As for fighting Trump, when he scapegoats groups of people, attacks the environment or threatens Illinois by withholding federal funds at his whim, I will take him to court every step of the way.
Secondly, I will achieve real criminal justice reform. There are four pieces to this: 1) ending mass incarceration, 2) ending the racist drug war, 3) eliminating cash bail, and 4) achieving real police reform. I will fight Trump’s efforts to withdraw Federal oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
Thirdly, I will fight corruption in our state and local government. For example, it makes no sense that we are closing even more public schools after we just closed 50 of them, because of what the powers that be claim is a lack of money. The reality is that we are opening for-profit charter schools. That is corrupt. Access to quality education is much too important to turn it into a business that the rich and powerful can unfairly and unscrupulously benefit from.
What will you do the first week in office?
I will implement my agenda by creating a public integrity bureau within the Attorney General’s office to investigate corruption. I will also create committees to implement my plans for real criminal justice reform and investigate corporate crime and wrongdoing.
Why did I run for committeeman and what have I done as committeeman?
For 40 years, the 33rd Ward was ruled by one man, Dick Mell, who wielded his power as an alderman and committeeman. His sphere of influence extended to his family members and his unchecked power had negative consequences for the entire state. My life has been about taking on big challenges and this was an important mission my ward needed to take on. I decided to lead this effort and ran for committeeman to bring democracy back to the 33rd and to make sure our elections were fair by appointing fair election judges, endorse fair judges to put on the bench, and to start a progressive movement within the Cook County Democratic Party.
As committeeman, I have continually spoken out against these long-standing, inappropriate practices, in my ward and, more broadly, in the Cook County Democratic Party. And I have turned my words into effective action: I have worked with the board of elections to appoint new election judges and formed a committee to evaluate and endorse judicial candidates. Together with community leaders, I have set up a rigorous process that includes a long questionnaire, interviews, and long discussions amongst members in the community (lawyers and laypersons) to endorse highly qualified judges in our local judicial subcircuit. I also have begun a progressive movement within the Cook County Democratic Party to let the people decide in the bigger elections, and to eliminate the corrupt requirement that forces endorsed judicial candidates contribute $40,000 to the Cook County Democratic Party.
Do you support Black Lives Matter?
Yes. I strongly believe that all citizens of Illinois deserve fair and equitable treatment under the law. It is a reality that the Black community has taken the brunt of the systemic racism that continues to be present in many of our institutions, and it takes many forms.
As a public defender and defense counsel, I have witnessed far too many instances where the criminal justice system has treated people of color unfairly. My plan for criminal justice reform is bold, and includes reversing the policy of mass incarceration, implementing serious police reform and accountability, and elimination of the cash bail system that discriminates against people with lesser economic means. Just as importantly, I want the community to be actively engaged in these activities, and that includes people in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Are you anti-police?
Absolutely not. A strong, professional and responsible police force is essential to Illinois, since the rule of law is fundamental to our democracy. The reason I so strongly want police reform is that our police system, in many instances, has not enforced the law fairly, equitably and justly—and there has been limited accountability for abuse of power.
Good policing requires active engagement with the community, based on mutual trust, respect and shared goals. Because these elements have been absent in many communities, the police force has lost the community’s confidence and adversarial relationships have become entrenched.
That is why, as Attorney General, I will aggressively move to implement criminal justice reform and police reform so that we can begin a new and positive chapter in Illinois. Ending the drug war will help by focusing our policing efforts on violent crime that is destroying our communities.
Did you support Bernie Sanders?
I was a proud supporter of Bernie Sanders. He tapped into the frustration felt by many Illinoisans on both sides of the aisle and he has consistently fought against inequality and unfairness. I am a progressive Democrat who believes in a strong middle class, and I believe that government, when it is truly responsive to the needs of the people, has the potential to change things and make lives better for everyone. As Attorney General, I will ensure that Illinois government is responsive to the needs of all the people, not just the few political insiders from both parties.
It’s clear that many trends in Illinois need to be reversed. Chief among them are rising income inequality and the forces of big money and big business that serve the needs of the few at the expense of the many. Illinois cannot rise above its status as one of America’s lowest ranking states until these fundamental trends and dynamics are addressed in a bold way.
Illinoisans need access to affordable higher education and affordable, quality health care. They also need a clean environment that is free from hazardous materials and, over the long term, reverses climate change. These are issues that Bernie advocated for very strongly and I agree with him.
Do you support Chicago being a Sanctuary City?
Yes. I believe it is incumbent upon our political leaders in Chicago—and throughout Illinois—to stand up for the rights of all of us. The federal government’s current push to scapegoat immigrants is a cynical ploy to divide our people and to misrepresent the majority of people who have come to the United States to pursue a better life. Chicago is filled with hard-working, law abiding people who are talented and have made significant contributions to the city and, although they are undocumented, they are the kind of people we need to make Chicago a stronger, more prosperous and enjoyable city.
The federal government’s anti-immigrant policies will clearly set Chicago back while causing undue and unnecessary hardship for many people. As Attorney General, I will strongly defend Illinois against the federal government’s anti-immigration policies.
Will you take campaign funding from big businesses?
No. My campaign is based upon the opposite: going after the big-business, big-money interests of the politically connected in Illinois. I am running as the Defender of the People of Illinois, and I hope that everyday people will see enough value in my candidacy, and welcome the bold actions I will take as Attorney General, to financially support our campaign as best they can.
What is your position on decriminalization of marijuana in Illinois?
I believe marijuana should be legalized. One doesn’t have to be a user of marijuana to understand that the war on drugs—and the criminalization of marijuana in particular—has been an abysmal failure. Far too many of our citizens have been convicted and imprisoned for using marijuana, although little evidence exists to support our draconian drug laws.
Ironically, rather than helping our citizens, criminalization of marijuana has encouraged the development of a huge and chaotic black market, with its inevitable consequences of gang violence and harm to many innocent bystanders.
For these reasons, and based on the experience of other states that have legalized marijuana, I believe it is time to legalize marijuana in Illinois as well. It should be regulated—based on clear scientific evidence—to ensure that legal pot does not create any significant health or public safety risks to the people of Illinois and that the marijuana industry is run fairly and lawfully.
As Attorney General, I will consult with attorneys general from states that have legalized marijuana to ensure that Illinois adopts best practices in the production, distribution and sales of marijuana, and that any tax revenue Illinois derives from the sale of marijuana is used for purposes that benefit all the people, not just the few who are politically connected.
What is your position on gun control?
Illinois is suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, and the sheer number of guns in this state is staggering. I have been examining the root causes of these problems, and I am convinced that to turn the tide on gun violence, we must hold the gun industry and the NRA accountable. Clearly, their sole vested interest is to make more money by selling more guns, ammunition and accessories.
The gun industry and the NRA are not passive players. In addition to their lobbying and campaign funding activities—which hold our legislators hostage—they have been manipulating the hearts and minds of Americans for years, flooding the airwaves and internet with propaganda that encourages more gun purchases. They have been sophisticated in convincing people, incorrectly, that the Democrats are the adversaries who want to confiscate all guns and thereby abridge their Second Amendment rights.
In short, I am very supportive of reasonable gun regulation that will reduce the amount of gun violence and will make irresponsible gun owners accountable for their actions or inaction.
I believe that ordinary citizens should not have access to weapons of war and mass violence and that all people who purchase guns, in all venues including gun shows, must undergo and pass rigorous background checks and waiting periods. I also support the Gun Dealer Licensing Act requiring gun sellers to be licensed like any other business such as liquor stores, barber shops or nail salons.
As Attorney General, I will ensure that Illinois gun ownership data is well-maintained and coordinated so that people who should be denied guns can’t purchase them. I will enforce existing gun laws and promote new laws that restrict access to military-style weapons and accessories that are designed as “work-arounds” to existing gun laws—such as Bump Stocks. I will also promote gun control efforts at the federal level, and work with attorneys general from other states to help create a level playing field from state to state. It defeats the purpose of having common sense gun laws when Illinois’ neighboring states have lenient gun laws and don’t require background checks at all points of purchase. The lack of a level playing field fosters the black market in guns and results in guns getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
Why did you defend former governor Rod Blagojevich?
I defended Blagojevich because he has rights and I believe that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and due process. My entire career has been about defending Illinoisans. I also defended NATO and Occupy Chicago protestors who were arrested for exercising their free speech. I defended a young immigrant who was arrested and charged with reckless conduct because of the clothes she wore. And I have defended the countless victims of the drug war.
After the first Blagojevich trial ended in a hung jury, I was appointed by the court to be his public defender for the second trial. A person’s right to proper defense is a fundamental right and has been an American tradition going back to John Adams. Just as we need to hold people accountable, we also need to protect people from prosecutorial overreach.
AARON GOLDSTEIN for Illinois Attorney General
Official campaign website: ag4ag.org
Online newsroom: newsline360/ag4ag
General Campaign email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign office: (312) 600-5107
Kurman Communications, Inc.
Lee Barrie or Cindy Kurman
(312) 651-9000 or (312) 286-7643
Document Publication | Fri February 09, 2018, 08:59 AM EST