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Erika Harold Looks To End The Madigan Reign

In better Illinois news, Attorney General Lisa Madigan's star is fading while her recently-announced GOP challenger Erika Harold's is just beginning to sparkle. Can Ms. Harold end the reign of at least one Madigan? Harold questions why there is one set of rules for the people and another set for politicians, particularly the current Attorney General’s father. Candidate for Illinois Attorney General, Erika Harold joins Dan and Amy to discuss public corruption, criminal justice reform, and the sanctuary state bill.

     

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Dan Proft: Good morning Dan and Amy, Amy you know how Megyn Kelly like interned for you and she like shot past you long ago and left you in the dust and doesn’t even talk to you anymore. Amy Jacobson: That’s okay… no, no, it’s not true, she’s recently at NBC and touted my excellence as a tutor, as a teacher. Dan: Yeah, the occasional pander, that’s not… Amy: Oh, that’s not true, she’s a lovely woman. Dan: Yeah. Amy: Let’s not get ugly. Dan: So, as I was saying, so you know… Amy: Yeah, I have Megyn and Savannah Guthrie, what do you have? Dan: Right, so you can’t take credit for them. Amy: Well no because I helped them home their skills. Dan: Right and then they far surpassed you. Amy: Leap frogged. Dan: Yeah, well I had that happen too, so back in 2002, I’m running a Republican candidate’s race for Governor, and young woman named Erika Harold, interned, she’s from Champagne, she interned on the campaign, and then a year later she won Miss America, and then basically doesn’t even deign to talk to me anymore and I don’t blame her. Amy: You helped her with the talent competition, right? Kind of? Dan: And the gown. Amy: I helped with the swimsuit. Dan: And now so she wanted to do all these Miss America, Harvard Law School, be a lawyer and she… Amy: So, she’s leaped frogged you. Dan: Oh yeah, I mean long ago, like I said, so I know the pain of being completely eclipsed by someone once under your mentorship, and now Erika Harold is trying to end the reign of one of the Madigan’s, the Lisa one, who’s been Attorney General since 2000… since she was elected in 2002, and so some good news in Illinois, the battle has been joined at least for the Attorney General spot, and for more on this race and why Miss America Erika Harold, Harvard Law grad Erika Harold has decided to make the race, we’re going to ask her, Erika thanks for joining us appreciate it. Erika Harold: My pleasure, good morning, and don’t be so hard on yourself. Dan: No, see that’s what I’m saying, you get the occasional pander, but I appreciate that, no, so Erika, why did you decide to leave your law practice and run for Illinois Attorney General. Erika: I decided to run for Attorney General, because I think that the people of the state deserve an Attorney General who will be independent, who will hold both parties accountable and who will use the tools of the office to combat public corruption and our current Attorney General has not done that, when she ran for office nearly 15 years ago, she promised to aggressively combat public corruption, but she has stood on the side-lines when there have been patronage hiring scandals and I think that people of our state deserve better. Amy: What do you think the biggest mistake she’s made though? So far, Lisa Madigan. Dan: Oh boy. Amy: Well there’s a lot. Erika: There’s been the issue of not addressing public corruption, specifically when her father was involved, back with the Metro patronage hiring scandal, I dot patronage hiring scandal, she had tools of office to address that and chose not to do so, and when you look at the concentration of family power into state-wide offices, that problematic, when she decided not to run for Governor in 2013, she cited that family conflict as the reason for not doing so, she said that it would not serve the people of Illinois interest, if both the Governor and the Speaker were from the same family, when you take the office of Attorney General, that’s supposed to be a watchdog that creates an even greater conflict of interest. Dan: Yeah, but to be fair, before she was Attorney General she only had her law degree for 5 minutes, so maybe she just doesn’t understand the job and the criminal statutes under which she could prosecute public corruption. Erika: I think she’s a formidable person, and a good attorney and therefore the fact that she’s not using those tools of office makes the public wonder why is it that there are one set of rules for the regular people and then another set of rules for the politicians. Dan: Now one of the questions that will be put to you, that was put to her when she was running in the primary way back in 2002, I remember, because I’m old, she ran against John Schmidt, who was like number 3 at justice, or maybe he was number 2 at justice under Clinton, this was a guy who was like a career prosecutor and she never prosecuted anything and still hasn’t as Erika’s recounting, but she was not a prosecutor, you’re talking about public corruption, you don’t have a background as a criminal prosecutor, so how do you address that? Erika: There are a host of issues that the Attorney General’s supposed to address, part of its public corruption, another large part of it deals with litigation experience, and I have a strong background in litigation, another is to bring issues that innovative in terms of addressing criminal justice issues in Illinois, for the past 10 years I’ve served in the National Board of Directors of Prison Fellowship, which is the largest outreach to inmates and their families, and is one of the leaders of bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts in this country and so that’s a background that gives me unique opportunity to advance some innovative ways of addressing recidivism and crime and violence here in Illinois, and that’s an issue where I can be leader and she is not. Amy: Alright, so on Monday, a little birdie has told us that Governor Rauner’s going to be signing the bill to make Illinois a sanctuary state… Dan: That little birdie by the way, the Chicago Tribune. Amy: Yeah, it’s kind of big birdie, but there’s rumblings and what would you do as Attorney General, and what can you do as Attorney General, to stop that or try and prevent that from happening? Erika: When you’re the Attorney General, your job is to enforce the law, so regardless of your opinion on particular bills and particular pieces of legislation, if you’re the Attorney General and someone challenges the law, it’s your constitutional responsibility to defend that law in court, so I would take that very seriously upholding the rule of law, and I wouldn’t make my determination based on my own views on it, I would say what does the Constitution say, what does the bill or piece of legislation say, and then I would handle my constitutional responsibilities accordingly. Dan: I want to go back to the Prison Fellowship experience, and by the way that gives me a chance to plug next week, we’re doing criminal justice week here, we’ve got documentarians, we’ve got law professors, we’ve got authors and criminologists from a range of opinions, so this is going to be really interesting because this is a real topic that has been under addressed, but particularly in Illinois where we have overcrowded prisons, not unlike some other states, and just in terms of the bully pulpit of the attorney general’s office, as well as being a leader on reforms that have to do with criminal justice and our justice system more generally, just speak a little bit about your experience and how it could be applied to think about things like sentencing reform, alternative sentencing, those type of topics that are much bandied about now, but we’ve seen some progress, but marginal in Illinois. Erika: Absolutely, and it’s a topic where both parties have the ability to collaborate and you don’t see much of that happening here in the state, and so it’s a great opportunity for that, but my own background is both focussing on a policy perspective, but actually going into prisons themselves and actually speaking to people whose lives have been effected by crime and addiction and I think it’s the going into prisons part, first and foremost, gave me a renewed sense of empathy and understanding for what is broken within our system, and that was, I started going into prisons back in 2004, I’ve been on death row talking to inmates, going from place to place within the prison talking to people about their stories and looking at the specific ways in which people’s lives have been effected particularly once they’re released and want to put their life back in order and contribute to their community, got me thinking about what can we do specifically to address these issues, one issue as you raised, is addressing sentencing, when you’re dealing with non-violent, low level offences, continuing to incarcerate people, both takes away their ability to earn a living, it puts them in a prison system that’s broken, and then makes it more difficult to get a job once there released and so if we’re talking about something that deal sixth addiction, our resources might be better spent helping people to get treatment, than spending twenty two thousand dollars a year to incarcerate them. Dan: That must have been the most popular prison visit since Johnny Cash did Folsom Prison Blues at Folsom Prison, your prison visits I suspect. Erika: I didn’t know what to expect, and by the first prison I visited was a maximum security men’s prisons in Louisiana and I had no idea how people would respond to me, but each inmate that I visited who was on death row thanked me for coming, because they said it communicated to them that they had not been completely written off by society, they understood that they were going to have to serve there sentence, and many of them were awaiting execution, but they felt a sense of hope that they had not been completely written off, and I think that people deserve second chance if they’re willing to put their life back in order, and when we’re dealing with issues such as people finding new jobs, right now our law penalises employers who would give ex-offenders an opportunity, and there are ways that the Attorney General’s office can work with the legislature to try and promote different ways of addressing the legal standards, giving employers greater opportunities and incentives to give people a better chance and that helps our entire community, it helps our entire state, because when people are back working, contributing to their families it improves, how they feel about themselves and I improves their ability to support their families. Amy: So, you’re looking forward to this fight against Lisa Madigan? You going to debate with her and… Erika: I absolutely am. Amy: And offer that. Erika: What’s so exciting about it is that people on both sides of the isle are excited about this race, when she first ran for office, as Dan said, it was in 2002, and there have not been very competitive races since that point in time, and people are finally looking at the concentration of power within that family, I understand the Madigan family name has declined dramatically in the polls among the public and this is a fight that people want to have, because they’re understanding how that concertation of family power is supporting reforms, whether its term limits, fair maps and their understanding that they want the opportunity to have a change and a break in the status quo. Dan: For those who don’t know you and aren’t familiar with your total story, you come from a biracial family, and so I wonder if you have any comments on the state of race relations, tension, elevated and in some cases incendiary rhetoric going on both in Chicago, in the nation generally. Erika: Its truly heart-breaking when you look and see what’s happening in our country right now, I think in Charlottesville it was horrifying to see White supremacists with torches doing what they were doing and to see the racial tensions that have been exploited in our country during this past week and as a person of faith I’m certainly praying for our country, and certainly praying that we can start to find some sense of unity, because we have very serious issues to address in this country and continuing to fight each other is certainly not going to help us move forward. Dan: She is Erika Harold, Miss America 2003, what class were you by? Erika: 2001. Dan: 2001… Erika: A proud IOLINI person. Dan: Very good, there you go, that’s how you know you went to Illinois right there, Harvard grad, attorney and now candidate for Illinois Attorney General against Lisa Madigan, Erika thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Erika: Thank you for having me. Amy: And she joined us on our turnkey dot pro answer line.

   

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