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ELECTIONS Illinois Attorney Gen. candidate Nancy Rotering on using mayoral skills in AG job
by Matt Simonette

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Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering is among the many candidates vying to replace Lisa Madigan once she leaves office. Among her Democratic opponents opponents in the race are Aaron Goldstein, Renato Mariotti, Jesse Ruiz, Scott Drury and Pat Quinn. On the Republican side, Erika Harold and Gary Grasso are also running for the post.

Windy City Times: Why did you throw your hat in the ring?

Nancy Rotering: I bring a lifetime of advocacy—that's just how I'm built. When I see an opportunity, I bring a voice to the voiceless, to stand up to the powers that be who I feel are not serving the best interests of everybody. It just is appealing to me to have that opportunity. So, as a mayor, I've had a chance to set the culture, define the agenda, and create the priorities that I want to move forward with—and bring the resources together, bring collaborators and move the agenda forward. I think that's an important skillset and it's experiences I will bring to the attorney general's office. There are so many issues right now that are under attack; our civil rights and human rights are under attack, both by state government and federal government. It's a real opportunity for someone who has that background to come forward and serve the people of Illinois.

WCT: Being mayor of Highland Park is not an easy job, but for the benefit of readers who perceive of it mainly as a wealthy suburb, comment more specifically about how your experience as mayor translates into qualifications to be attorney general.

NR: In a couple of ways—first of all, I'm currently leading a city with a budget of about $90 million and just fewer than 300 employees. The skills that are required to set that budget, create the priorities, provide direction and manage that staff translate directly into what would happen at the attorney general's office. Of al the candidates running in this race, only two of us bring that experience, with Pat Quinn obviously being the other one.

More directly to your question, after I became mayor, I did a human services needs assessment, for which we brought together over 250 volunteers to assess needs for youth, seniors, immigrants, people with disabilities and people who were economically disadvantaged. We then did an inventory of the services that were available to meet those needs. We identified gaps and synergies, and out of that came the creation of a legal aid clinic, which we're still running, to help people in the areas of immigration, housing and domestic violence. It is a wrong assumption to look at Highland park and dismiss that community as being affluent; we are far more diverse than people realize. What's most important is that, for the attorney general to be effective, they need to work for people across the state. I've been working on various constituents' needs, using limited fiscal resources, and have been able to a accomplish a great deal.

We're one of the first communities to pass a gender-neutral bathroom law. I know a lot of people in my community who would benefit. Having that sensitivity, recognizing that there are opportunities to make necessary changes and be sensitive to a broad constituency is something that I have nine years of experience in, and will bring to this role as attorney general.

WCT: Speak a bit about some of your work with the LGBT community.

NR: I've been involved since my days at Stanford and the Bay Area, and helping my friends who were at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and being an ally, in terms of making sure that they had access to healthcare and necessary support. That has been a very important part of who I am since the '80s.

I also have been a strong advocate for marriage-equality. I am the proud mother of a gay son. It's important to me that all of my children love who they want to love and marry whoever they want to marry. He and I both watched the vote when it was in the Illinois General Assembly, and we both cried when it was passed.

Nobody should have to fight discrimination. I don't want to sound trite, but to me that has been the strongest fight that I've been waging. We created a yearlong fight against discrimination. It wasn't just in schools, it was for everybody—seniors down to kids—to talk about language and what it means to be inclusive. We've done work with the county and our sister governments to really foster a culture and a sense of what it means to be equal.

WCT: If you could outline priorities on behalf of the LGBT community the attorney general could tackle, what would it look like?

NR: Three areas, particularly the issue of homelessness and in particular the impact of homelessness on LGBTQ youth. Another would be access to health care, and another would be humane and fair treatment in our criminal justice system. … Those are three areas the attorney general can have an impact on, whether its being an advocate fighting for funding, highlighting discriminatory practices that are leading to people ending up homeless. Again, the legal aid clinic that I created works on housing issues, fair housing and making sure that landlords aren't being discriminatory. We've been doing that for years and bringing that as a resource across the state, because we know folks are facing discrimination everywhere.

With regards to healthcare, and making sure that people are receiving necessary treatments and aren't being discriminated against, we know how unfairly LGBTQ patients are treated within the medical system. We need to highlight this, educate people, and also sue if there is discrimination. These people who hide behind religious freedom need to be held accountable. I see no place for that in the conversation—if you're providing healthcare, you're providing healthcare.

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