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ELECTIONS Illinois Attorney General Renato Mariotti
by Matt Simonette

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Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti has become an especially vocal critic of the Trump administration since the current president took office. Now, Mariotti has his hat in the ring to be Illinois' next attorney general. Among his Democratic opponents opponents in the race are Aaron Goldstein, Scott Drury, Jesse Ruiz, Nancy Rotering and Pat Quinn. On the Republican side, Erika Harold and Gary Grasso are also running for the position.

Windy City Times: Why are you running for attorney general?

Renato Mariotti: A few months after I left the U.S. Attorney's office, the election of Donald Trump occurred and that really encouraged me to take things into high gear. I was already somebody doing a lot on a variety of issues, be it the environment or reproductive rights but I started spending every minute I had speaking on television, newspapers, magazines and social media about Donald Trump and his legal problems, and what we needed to do trying to organize and activate people. When this opportunity came, it was an opening that doesn't happen often, and it seemed to me like an opportunity to run for a position where I could really try to stop Donald Trump and stand up for our rights during a difficult time for our country and our state. I'm not a politician, I'm not an insider and I'm somebody who brings a new perspective. I bringing the perspective of a lawyer and a prosecutor, as opposed to a politician.

WCT: Speak a bit more about how Trump's running inspired you to run. You've cultivated a large following on social media while he's been his office. How does that sentiment translate to success as the attorney general?

RM: Sure. I view what's happening with the administration as a crisis for our country. What we've been seeing across the country, starting a year ago, was actions taken by the attorneys general—in Hawaii and Washington, for example, against the travel ban—that has stopped the administration on many fronts … Anything that we can do to slow down or stop the administration—whether it's about net neutrality, Affordable Care Act or Dreamers—is an opportunity for us to keep Trump fighting.

WCT: How would you characterize the role of attorney general in this state? What is their primary responsibility to their constituents?

RM: The attorney general is the lawyer who fights for people who frankly can't afford a lawyer for themselves or need a lawyer to vindicate their basic rights. The attorney general acts when there are a lot of people around Illinois who are having their rights taken away, or a rebelling defrauded by banks or other institutions, or have pollution that is harming their environment. Whenever there is harm being felt by people in Illinois, the attorney general can be the lawyer, particularly for for people who don't have the money to have a lawyer for themselves.

WCT: Where do you see yourself in a continuity with Attorney General Madigan?

RM: I would certainly have a different approach than her. I admire the work that she's done on consumer protection and environment enforcement. I am a pretty aggressive lawyer and was a fairly aggressive prosecutor. I'm somebody who is very outspoken and believes in directly communicating with people. I would be out front, doing what I felt needed to be done against the Trump administration. For instance, I'm a member of Indivisible Chicago, and many of us were making phone calls to the attorney general's office to try to convince her to join the Washington attorney general's suit related to the Affordable Care Act and contraceptive coverage. She ultimately did, but I would have been there joining from day one. It's ultimately a difference of approach.

WCT: Have you had any significant engagement or work with the LGBT community?

RM: Absolutely. As a federal prosecutor, I vindicated the rights of LGBTQ citizens, including citizens who were victims of violent crime. Since I left the office, I have been an outspoken advocate for the community, particularly the right of transgender Americans. That's not to single them out, but they have been under such attack by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He has gone out of his way to make gender identity less protected under federal civil rights law. It's something I have tried to highlight. I try to help people understand what is happening in the law; sometimes [the public] doesn't understand what Sessions is doing when they read it in a long news story. I try to make it understandable. Illinois has really good human rights laws. People who are LGBTQ deserve to travel all over the country and not be discriminated against.

WCT: What are some pertinent aspects of your platform for the LGBT community?

RM: One thing is we have is discrimination that had led to increased involvement with the criminal justice system. What we need to do is examine how LGBTQ citizens are interacting with the justice system, both as defendants and people who are incarcerated. There is a higher amount of violence directed towards LGBTQ persons interacting with that system.

Another important action the attorney general needs to take is fighting these religious exemption laws, which essentially are excuses for discrimination. … We also need to be advocates for rights nationally. When transgender Americans are thrown out of our militiary, that affects people in Illinois, because they are people in Illinois who want to serve. We should be proud of the fact that we are standing up for LGBTQ citizens across the country, because, let's be frank, there are LGBTQ citizens in states that don't have attorney generals who fight for them. When we fight the Trump administration here in Illinois, we're not only fighting on behalf of transgender Illinoisans who want to serve in the military, we're fighting for them across the country.

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