BLOOMINGTON — Kwame Raoul still remembers what Barack Obama told him after Raoul was appointed as his successor in the Illinois Senate.
"'Spend some time speaking and getting to know people from other parts of the state. ... Learn about your differences without letting it divide you,'" Raoul recalled. "I took that advice to heart, and that's why I've been able to work on a bipartisan basis on a lot of fronts."
Raoul, now a 13-year state senator, wants to keep that approach if elected as the state's next attorney general next fall.
The Chicago attorney is one of several candidates vying to succeed fellow Democrat Lisa Madigan, who will retire as attorney general after four terms.
"The attorney general can't afford to be a partisan. ... I haven't run away from difficult tasks, and I've been able to garner bipartisan support for things we had to do as a state," Raoul said during an interview Wednesday at The Pantagraph.
"There's more than just looking at what Kwame Raoul says he will do as attorney general. You can look at what Kwame Raoul has done as a state senator ... and not just casting a vote — being the lead sponsor."
Raoul touted his work on employee rights; protecting victims of sexual assault, including on college campuses; and preventing domestic violence. He's also advocated for criminal justice reform, voting rights and the federal Affordable Care Act.
"I sponsored legislation that made sure Illinois could fully take advantage of the Affordable Care Act," he said. "I think about it personally because my access to health care allows me to sit with you today. ... I was diagnosed last year (with prostate cancer), and having access to health care allowed me to confront my ailment."
Raoul said he hopes to continue some Madigan initiatives, including protecting consumers, fighting opioid abuse and pushing back directly against the Trump administration — as Madigan's office did Wednesday by joining 15 other state attorneys general to fight the latest travel ban order.
Raoul also sees opportunities for improvement, however. He hopes to make it easier for employees to file complaints about companies that treat them illegally, push harder for criminal justice reform, enable the public access counselor to handle more Freedom of Information Act requests and fund trauma recovery centers that aim to disrupt the cycle of gun violence.
"You have victims beyond the direct victim — kids who, if you go into some elementary schools and you ask them, 'do you know somebody who's been shot?' ... these hands go up. That's trauma, and it's untreated," said Raoul.