Editorial | Backing Susana Mendoza, Erika Harold in November

Editorial | Backing Susana Mendoza, Erika Harold in November

The News-Gazette's election endorsements continue today with recommendations for the offices of Illinois comptroller and attorney general.

Comptroller

The News-Gazette endorses Democratic incumbent Susana Mendoza for re-election.

Elected in 2016 to fill out the balance of the two-year term created by the death of late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Mendoza is seeking a full term in her own right.

Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that, if elected, Mendoza will stick around. She's pointedly refused to rule out a run next year for mayor of Chicago. Indeed, she is actively considering it, even though it's, at best, a long shot.

That kind of me-first approach to public office is a little hard to swallow. Nonetheless, Mendoza has been an effective comptroller who has earned a second term in office.

She faces Republican Darlene Senger, a former state legislator from Naperville. She has degrees in finance from Purdue and DePaul universities.

Senger, obviously, is qualified to serve in the comptroller's office, which keeps track of state spending.

But there's no reason to make a change, because Mendoza has shown herself to be an energetic, thoughtful steward of this office.

As a former state legislator and city clerk in Chicago, Mendoza has a long background in politics.

A protege of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Mendoza is a hard-worker, who has demonstrated she can be as partisan as she is competent.

Her constant war of words with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was driven by both policy and political concerns. If a Democrat takes over the governor's office, Mendoza likely will remain as outgoing, but not nearly as outspoken, as she has been for the past two years.

As noted in our previous endorsement of Democratic Treasurer Michael Frerichs, it would be a substantial step forward if taxpayers had the opportunity to vote on merging the offices of comptroller and treasurer. Mendoza is opposed to consolidation, stating that the status quo should remain in place because, among other things, she has been so effective in her new duties. Since consolidation is not an issue now, keeping her in place is the right move for Illinois.

Attorney general

The News-Gazette endorses Republican Erika Harold, a Champaign lawyer, for the seat being vacated by longtime Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Both candidates in this race — Harold and Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul — will be starting fresh in this important office. Among other things, it represents state agencies, litigates in both the federal and state courts and enforces environmental and consumer protection laws.

It is our opinion that Harold is better suited to this post because she looks to the future, while Raoul, probably for purely political reasons, seems obsessed with the past.

A Harvard law graduate, Harold is best known as a former Miss America. But she is much more than that, a capable, independent and fair-minded person who is emphasizing a variety of important issues. They include fighting public corruption, promoting criminal justice reform, stepping up government accountability and transparency and taking on the troubling opioid crisis.

Raoul, a state senator from Chicago, is the much more politically connected of the two candidates. A product of Windy City politics, he's presented himself as the next coming of former President Barack Obama, because he succeeded Obama in the former president's old state Senate district.

What could have been a campaign of serious issues, however, has devolved into relentless attacks by Raoul on Harold on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Raoul's campaign offers a constant refrain suggesting Harold, if elected, would use the attorney general's office to undermine those practices.

Harold has responded that she'll do her job as attorney general in a nonpartisan way and that she's dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens.

Raoul's attacks, while perhaps politically effective, are bizarre.

The right to get an abortion and participate in a same-sex marriage are federally guaranteed constitutional rights that are not subject to either a popular vote or veto by any public official.

Raoul appears to recognize that reality. But he insists he should be elected attorney general to protect those rights in the event they might come under legal assault sometime in the future. That's a pretty weak argument to make.

Indeed, it smacks of obsessing about the past.

Legal abortion has been a fact of life for more than 40 years.

Same-sex marriage is relatively new, but there'll be no turning back there either.

Society has rendered its judgment on that dramatic social change, and it's in place to stay.

Illinoisans would be best served by a candidate who'll address current problems and issues. That candidate is, unquestionably, Harold.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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