Raoul, DeVore clash in first and only Illinois attorney general debate

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul defended Gov. JB Pritzker's pandemic shutdown orders Tuesday night as he debated a Republican challenger who filed dozens of lawsuits against them.

"We left our people hanging out to dry for two-and-a-half years on that fair question," said Republican Thomas DeVore.

"We saved people's lives," Raoul responded.

As Raoul and downstate lawyer DeVore faced off, they also disagreed about the SAFE-T Act and whether the attorney general might be able to prosecute Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

One of the most animated exchanges came when Democratic incumbent Raoul argued that Republican DeVore's legal challenges to Gov. Pritzker's pandemic mandates missed a larger point.

"If it's a fair question of whether the governor is exercising executive power against twelve-and-a-half million people in the state, the attorney general should always take the side of the people," DeVore said.

"The exercise of the governor's authority, the data demonstrates, saved lives," Raoul said.


Another flash point: the SAFE-T Act, which as of January 1 imposes strict new requirements on police and prosecutors seeking to put violent offenders behind bars before they're convicted at trial. Devore said if he becomes attorney general, he would join the state's attorneys now suing to overturn the SAFE-T Act.

"I do believe it's constitutional, and I will defend it in court," Raoul said.

"My administration is going to be on the opposite side. And we're going to defend the people against the SAFE-T Act," DeVore said.

The attorney general said he meets each week with a bi-partisan group of state's attorneys from across Illinois to discuss changes to the SAFE-T Act that may be voted on by the General Assembly as soon as next month.

"I think changes are needed for clarification," Raoul said. "Conversations are, in fact, taking place. We have state's attorneys at the table. We have sheriffs at the table speaking to the legislature."

Republican DeVore has said he would consider prosecuting Cook County State's Attorney Foxx for "dereliction of duty," for, among other things, announcing that she won't place felony charges against shoplifters unless they've stolen more than a thousand dollars in merchandise, even though state law sets the threshold much lower. Raoul dismissed it as grandstanding, saying the attorney general doesn't have that power.