Editorial: For attorney general

When incumbent Democrat Lisa Madigan lists her accomplishments since becoming Illinois’ first female attorney general in 2003, it is difficult not to be impressed.

An aggressive champion of consumer rights, she has made Illinoisans safer and has put dollars back into the pockets of some who were taken. She has battled such things as identity theft and nursing home and mortgage lending abuses. She’s returned nearly $10 billion owed to the state or defrauded from it since her tenure began. She also dramatically improved government transparency in a state desperately in need of sunshine via tougher open records and meetings laws and creation of the Illinois public access counselor’s office. In many ways, she says, the office is victim of its own success, as private citizens, government officials and media flood it with requests for help.

Ms. Madigan’s office also continues to lend assistance to local law enforcement offices and state’s attorneys. Rock Island County, for example, asked the AG’s office to successfully pursue charges against former state’s attorney Jeff Terronez and former sheriff Jeff Boyd, as well as to investigate whistleblower allegations facing the county. Her office also has weighed in on questions over when a county board can be reduced in size and if  the RICo board’s restrictive public comment period is constitutional. The ruling in the first case outlined how it would be possible for reformers to pursue a board reduction without waiting for the next Census. The latter case opinion led (at least on paper) to a more open policy for commenting at RICo public meetings.

She faces a challenge from Republican Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, Ill., an active duty military veteran who has a compelling legal background which includes serving as a  U.S. adviser to the Iraqi team which prosecuted former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

That background is evident in his call to prioritize anti-corruption efforts in a state awash in government officials caught doing wrong. He maintains that the current attorney general has not pursued corruption cases aggressively enough in part because her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is the most powerful Democrat in Illinois. Certainly her relationship with the too-powerful leader has created difficult situations for her, but it is unfair to conclude it has kept her from doing the job effectively.

Mr. Schimpf IS right that the state and the attorney general could and should make battling government corruption a top priority, and we’d love to see more state resources invested in combatting it. But it cannot be so to the exclusion of the other considerable duties of that office which Ms. Madigan has performed admirably.

We were impressed by Mr. Schimpf’s background and the solid, shoestring campaign he’s conducted. He is a welcome addition to the state’s political arena.

But because of her record, Ms. Madigan has earned another term.