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ELECTIONS Illinois Attorney General candidate Aaron Goldstein on progressive AG agenda
by Matt Simonette

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Attorney Aaron Goldstein, a former public defender who, in 2016, defeated Dick Mell as the 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman, is running for to be Illinois' attorney general. Among his Democratic opponents opponents in the race are Renato Mariotti, 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: What prompted your run?

Aaron Goldstein: I had just thought about it and all of the good things that I could do as attorney general. What I am is bold and progressive—I have that agenda and that is what I want to do. It's really about doing the most good with this position—that's been my whole career. I've represented the indigent and worked for the Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Assistance Foundation, as well as the Cook County public defenders. That's been my whole career: Standing up for the people and the underprivileged. That's what I want to bring to the office, standing up to the big powers—banks, corporations and Trump—and having real criminal justice reform and fighting corruption.

WCT: Would you be running if Attorney General Madigan wasn't? What kind of continuity would there be between the office now and the office if you were to run it?

AG: There would be continuity in the sense that what Attorney General has done I applaud in many ways. But my assessment of her tenure is that it's a competent office, but she has been cautious. I don't think she has been as bold as I would have liked to have seen her, or lot of people of people across the state would have liked to have seen her, on a variety of issues. It's really not replacing anything she's done; I think a lot of it is maintaining that structure—the consumer protection, domestic violence work, those types of things. I don't think she has done enough on criminal justice reform or corruption. There's been some success standing up to big powers, but I don't think she's been as bold as I would be.

WCT: Speak a bit more about the issues you'd want to take on. You're characterizing this as a "bold and progressive agenda," so what does that mean?

AG: I mentioned criminal justice reform—that's a very big issue at which the attorney general needs to be at the forefront, whether it's speaking out, advocating to the legislature or going into court and arguing on behalf of people's rights. Number one is that we have got to end mass incarceration and this drug war. Number two is bail reform. I've been working on that in Cook County as a public defender. We're just about there to get rid of cash bail. We need to do that throughout the state. People shouldn't be sitting in jail because they can't post $100. It's terrible for the individual in jail and it's terrible for the public; it does nobody any good. The part about criminal justice reform [largely deals with] police accountability. Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit after Trump and Sessions elicited the federal monitor of the police department, but I don't think she's gone far enough; she needs to have the public involved as well. What I mean by that is, the community should have enforcement power over any consent decree that we're handed down.

Another issue is taking on big powers. [Madigan] has at times stood up for Trump, but other times not as much as I think she should have. I think there are some important and interesting pieces of information that she should be jumping on that I would as attorney general. There's currently a lawsuit involving the fossil fuel industry by about 20 attorneys general. Lisa Madigan has not signed onto that; I would. There should be potential litigation against gun manufacturers. They have immunity, but there should be some loopholes there and we need to hold them accountable.

WCT: What kind of work have you done with the LGBT community?

AG: My political views when it comes to the LGBTQ community are as progressive as you can get. I'm supportive of that community; many of my clients are in that community. It is sort of unknown what goes on, particularly within the transgender community—many are homeless. They have left families who have shamed and disowned them. Their communities have shamed them. So they end up with high rates of homelessness, or high rates of drug use, so they end up coming to the courthouse where I work. I work with that community as a lawyer.

With criminal justice reform, people think, "Stop shooting unarmed Black men." Bt it's bigger than that. It's the discrimination that the LGBT community goes through, because there is discrimination by police officers. I've dealt with those issues as a lawyer quite frequently.

WCT: What other issues are pertinent for the LGBT community, from the attorney general's perspective?

AG: The attorney general has three roles. One is to be that lawyer for the people. Number two is having that bully pulpit. The third thing is to be the advisor to the legislature. Every one of those fronts will be important to me. So, when it comes to discrimination, and other issues—I don't want to say Chicago is some sort of haven—it's a different dynamic when it comes to small-town Illinois. I will be vigilant when it comes to any issues when it comes to discrimination and being pro-active. When we see something, we make a quick and decisive investigation and we're moving, to go to court to stop whatever discriminatory practices are going on. When it comes to legislation, I want the community to come to me and say, "This is what we see going on, and we want you to go to work on that." So when it comes to the LGBT community, there's discrimination that's specific to the community, which we have to fight in court and with legislation as well. But there are issues that touch on everyone but affect the LGBT community even more adversely. If we can get criminal justice reform, for example, everyone is going to be helped by that.

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