Earlier this fall, we interviewed Illinois state Senator Kwame Raoul about his policy work and something he has had in common with more than 200,000 American men each year: prostate cancer. Raoul lost his physician father and both grandfathers to the disease, and he spoke with emotion about his diagnosis three years ago, why more African American men aren’t screened, and his gratitude for being cancer-free today.
He also spoke candidly about why he is a survivor, recognizing that many men (especially within the African-American community) do not have his same access to insurance coverage that allowed him to get the screening that caught the cancer early and led to successful treatment.
Raoul said that insight helps drive his campaign for Illinois attorney general; while a state’s chief lawyer ordinarily might not have much to do with health care, these are not ordinary times.
Two lawsuits could make a big difference for people whose coverage depends on Obamacare, via either Medicaid’s expansion in Illinois (which Raoul co-sponsored) or the subsidies the law makes available for middle-income people without workplace health benefits. One features Democratic attorneys general suing to stop the Trump administration’s tactic of dismantling the Affordable Care Act one piece at a time. In a second lawsuit, Republican attorneys general – including Josh Hawley of Missouri – want a federal court to rule that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Democratic AGs have intervened in the ACA’s defense.
It’s abundantly clear which group Kwame Raoul would join. On healthcare access – as well as civil rights, student debt, the environment and other key areas – he intends to challenge, not acquiesce to, the Trump administration in court. We are confident that he has the legal and advocacy skills to do so successfully.
His Republican opponent, Champaign attorney Erika Harold, is unlikely to take such an activist stance. She speaks of simply “enforcing the law” and suing the federal government only when necessary to protect Illinois interests that she appears to define narrowly. Would that include defending the law responsible for over one million Illinoisans’ health coverage? She has avoided directly answering that question, and we are left to assume that since she said she would repeal the ACA during her 2014 congressional run, her enthusiasm for defending it in court would be limited at best.
Both candidates praise outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s admirable record on consumer protection. Both prioritize government transparency. And both speak passionately about criminal justice reform and combating police brutality. But it is Raoul who has the knowledge and experience to back up his commitment with a proven record; he understands how to navigate political realities and work with legislators, law enforcement and activists to produce the reforms that make a difference on the ground. And he is ready to fight Trump.
Raoul’s legal and policy expertise, personal passion for healthcare access, and willingness to challenge injustice in an unusual and frightening time are what Illinois needs in its attorney general. We strongly endorse Kwame Raoul for Illinois attorney general.