NORMAL — Former Gov. Pat Quinn thinks there's still a place in Illinois government for him.
"Our democracy is in peril, in my opinion. Fundamental things we take for granted, like freedom of the press, freedom of speech, making sure we have the right to petition, the right to health care ... that's in jeopardy. (President Donald) Trump has really, I think, threatened the foundational principles of our American democracy," Quinn, a Democratic candidate for attorney general told reporters Thursday at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center.
"State attorney generals are the last line of defense," he said. "We've got to have someone there who has expertise, who knows Illinois, and I know our state like the back of my hand."
Quinn, 69, of Chicago hopes to fill that job, continuing a political career that includes five years as governor, six years as lieutenant governor and four years as state treasurer. He last ran in 2014, when he, the incumbent, lost the governor's mansion to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Quinn first will have to win in a crowded primary March 20: eight Democrats, including some state legislators, are vying to succeed Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who will not run after four terms in that office.
"I would not be running if Lisa Madigan didn't announce her retirement. I worked quite a bit with her when I became governor ... and she was very helpful, helping me navigate through an ethics crisis," said Quinn, who became governor after Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office in 2009. "You need to have an attorney general who knows the law and knows, when there are challenges, how to help the state navigate through tough times."
Quinn said making the attorney general's office stronger could be part of the solution to the state's problems. He hopes to give residents more power to make policy independent of the General Assembly through voter referendum, which could lead to stronger ethics laws; take the lead on rooting out public corruption; and promote existing protections like the Whistleblower Protection and Recovery Act, which he signed as governor.
He hopes also to help secure more funding for the public access counselor, a part of the attorney general's office that helps the public get information from governmental bodies, and for the Monetary Award Program, which provides MAP grants that help residents go to colleges and universities like ISU.
"I see the role of attorney general as helping guide the law forward; not only enforcing the existing law, but making laws that are necessary for the common good," said Quinn. "That's the role of the attorney general, to champion the interests of folks who maybe don't have their own lawyer, but need the attorney general to step forward."