Illinois Attorney General election, 2022

The 2022 Illinois attorney general election saw Democratic incumbent Kwame Raoul win a second term in office, defeating Republican challenger Thomas DeVore in the general election on November 8. Raoul, the state’s first Black attorney general, was initially elected in 2018. His reelection ensures Democrats will maintain control of the important office for another four years.

The race garnered national attention as DeVore, a conservative attorney, aimed to unseat Raoul by running on a platform opposing COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates. However, Raoul’s strong financial advantage and Illinois’ blue state leaning proved insurmountable for the Republican.

Background on the Office of Attorney General

The attorney general is an important position in state government, serving as the top legal officer and law enforcement official. Understanding the powers and responsibilities of the office provides critical context for the 2022 election.

Responsibilities and Powers

The attorney general of Illinois has a broad range of duties and authority. The office acts as legal counsel to the state government and all its agencies. The attorney general can issue formal opinions on legal matters involving the state. They represent the state in any litigation, including arguing before state and federal courts.

Other powers include enforcing state consumer protection laws, overseeing charitable trusts, investigating and prosecuting violations of state law, defending the constitutionality of state laws and actions, and handling criminal appeals. The attorney general also has some authority to shape law enforcement priorities and initiatives.

History and Past Officeholders

The Office of the Illinois Attorney General was established in 1818 when Illinois joined the union as the 21st state. The attorney general was originally appointed by the legislature. Since the Illinois Constitution of 1970, the office has been filled by statewide election every four years, with no term limits.

Democrats have held the attorney general’s office in Illinois since 2003, starting with Lisa Madigan. She served four terms from 2003 to 2019. Kwame Raoul was elected in 2018 after Madigan declined to seek another term. Only three Republicans have been elected attorney general in Illinois since the 1960s.

2022 Election Overview

With Raoul seeking a second term, the 2022 attorney general election attracted an eclectic mix of candidates in the major party primaries along with some third party contenders. Key campaign themes included criminal justice reform, corruption, and COVID-19 policies.

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Candidates

Illinois held primary elections on June 28 to select each party’s nominee for attorney general for the November general election.

Democratic Primary

Incumbent Raoul ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, a sign of his party’s firm support. No major Democratic candidates stepped up to challenge the sitting attorney general.

Republican Primary

The GOP fielded a competitive three-way primary race between:

  • Thomas DeVore, a southern Illinois attorney known for his legal challenges to COVID-19 restrictions
  • Steve Kim, a former assistant attorney general and congressional candidate
  • David Shestokas, a lawyer and former Cook County prosecutor

DeVore won the nomination with 44% of the primary vote, defeating Kim and Shestokas. His outsider status and pandemic-related lawsuits helped him stand out from the field.

Third Parties

Two third party candidates also qualified for the general election ballot:

  • Dan Robin – Libertarian Party
  • Nimrod “Rod” Chapel Jr. – New Independent Party

Campaign Issues

COVID-19 policies took center stage in the primary and general election campaigns. DeVore gained traction by opposing lockdowns and vaccine mandates, tapping into conservative frustrations with pandemic restrictions.

Other major issues included violent crime, government corruption, abortion rights, and healthcare. Raoul highlighted his efforts to strengthen gun laws and protect reproductive rights. DeVore accused him of not doing enough to root out corruption in state government.

Endorsements

Raoul secured endorsements from the state Democratic party and major labor unions. He also won backing from advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood and gun control organizations.

DeVore was endorsed by some county and local Republican parties but lacked support from the state GOP establishment. His stances against COVID mandates did help him win endorsements from groups like Firefighters for Freedom.

General Election Results

When Illinois voters cast their ballots on November 8, Raoul emerged victorious to win a second term as attorney general.

Vote Totals

  • Kwame Raoul (D – Incumbent): 54.4% (2,219,420 votes)
  • Thomas DeVore (R): 43.5% (1,774,468 votes)
  • Dan Robin (L): 2.2% (89,664 votes)

Raoul fell short of the 59% he won in 2018 but still easily defeated DeVore by over 400,000 votes. The incumbent maintained Democrats’ stronghold on the office.

Analysis

Several factors contributed to Raoul’s reelection victory:

  • Incubency advantage – Raoul could point to his record over the past four years in office.
  • Financial edge – Raoul substantially outraised and outspent DeVore throughout the race.
  • Illinois’ partisan lean – The state has voted Democratic in the last seven presidential elections and has not elected a Republican attorney general since 2002.
  • COVID backlash fading – Anger over pandemic policies had dissipated somewhat by November, muting the issue’s impact.
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Ultimately, DeVore faced long odds trying to unseat the sitting Democratic attorney general in a solidly blue state during a midterm year that favored the party in power. But the close final margin suggests some appetite for political change among Illinois voters.

Kwame Raoul (Incumbent)

Kwame Raoul brought over two decades of legal and legislative experience to his successful reelection campaign. His background and first term record helped secure a second term over his Republican challenger.

Background and Career

Raoul was born and raised in Chicago. He earned his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1992. His early legal career included stints as a prosecutor and in private practice.

In 2004, Raoul won election to the Illinois Senate, representing a Chicago-area district. He spent 14 years in the state legislature, rising to key leadership spots. His legislative tenure focused on criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, and civil rights.

First Term as Attorney General

Raoul was elected attorney general in 2018 after Lisa Madigan departed the office. Key actions during his first term included:

  • Fighting Trump administration policies on immigration and the environment
  • Launching an initiative to improve policing practices and accountability
  • Strengthening enforcement of firearms laws
  • Defending Illinois abortion rights laws
  • Pursuing consumer protection cases against tech companies like Facebook and Google
  • Assisting in federal prosecutions of state lawmakers embroiled in corruption

2022 Campaign

With no primary challenger, Raoul avoided a costly intraparty battle as he sought reelection. His campaign messaging highlighted his record as attorney general and vowed to continue initiatives started in his first term:

  • Protecting abortion access following the overturn of Roe v. Wade
  • Combating gun violence through stricter firearm laws
  • Investing in community violence prevention programs
  • Reforming police training and use of force policies
  • Fighting public corruption within state and local government

Raoul also defended his COVID-19 response against DeVore’s attacks on pandemic restrictions. He argued for a balanced approach to protecting both public health and the economy.

Thomas DeVore (Republican Challenger)

GOP nominee Thomas DeVore built his underdog campaign around opposition to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions imposed by Governor J.B. Pritzker. Though he came up short, DeVore found some success rallying conservatives frustrated by the state’s pandemic policies.

Background and Career

DeVore practices law in southern Illinois, splitting time between criminal defense and personal injury cases. He has limited experience in the public sector, having lost campaigns for county treasurer and state representative in the early 2000s.

DeVore gained prominence by filing multiple lawsuits seeking to overturn Governor Pritzker’s COVID-19 executive orders like the statewide stay-at-home order, school mask mandates, and restaurant/business restrictions. Though largely unsuccessful in court, the suits elevated his profile.

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Campaign and Positions

Challenging the Democratic incumbent, DeVore’s main campaign theme was opposition to the state’s COVID-19 mitigation policies. He asserted that lockdowns and mandates violated constitutional rights.

Beyond the pandemic, DeVore also called for:

  • Aggressive prosecution of public corruption
  • Eliminating machine-style politics from state government
  • Protecting Second Amendment gun rights
  • Increased law enforcement funding
  • Allowing prayer in public schools
  • Ending state funding for abortion providers

Controversies

The Illinois Republican Party kept DeVore at arms’ length during the campaign, not endorsing his candidacy over various controversies:

  • Racially offensive statements in blog posts from the early 2000s
  • Defending a client involved in the January 6 Capitol insurrection
  • Advertisements and rhetoric perceived as anti-LGBTQ
  • Campaign finance reporting deficiencies

These issues never derailed DeVore’s insurgent campaign but hampered his chances of winning moderate voters needed to unseat Raoul.

Impact and Significance

The 2022 Illinois attorney general election preserved the status quo with Raoul’s reelection. But the campaign spotlighted some divides among Illinois voters that could have ramifications going forward.

Policy Priorities

With Raoul still in office, core initiatives of his first term will continue over the next four years. Top priorities include:

  • Abortion rights protections
  • Criminal justice and policing reforms
  • Stronger firearm regulations
  • Combating public corruption
  • Holding tech companies accountable on privacy and antitrust issues

Legal Battles with Federal Government

Raoul’s reelection ensures Illinois will keep challenging Trump administration policies in court on topics like:

  • Immigrants’ rights
  • Environmental regulations
  • LGBTQ discrimination protections
  • Gun laws

With a Democratic administration in Washington now, Raoul may shift focus to challenging legislation and executive actions from Republicans if they regain Congressional control.

Conclusion

The 2022 campaign to lead the Illinois attorney general’s office provided voters a clear contrast between Democratic incumbent Kwame Raoul and Republican challenger Thomas DeVore. Ultimately, Raoul prevailed by convincing voters his steady, progressive leadership was a better fit for the deep blue state than DeVore’s combative, conservative approach. With his reelection victory, Raoul will continue implementing his reform agenda for another four years as Illinois’ top legal officer.

FAQs

Who won the 2022 Illinois attorney general election?

Incumbent Democrat Kwame Raoul won reelection, defeating Republican challenger Thomas DeVore in the November 8 general election.

What was a key issue that impacted the campaign?

COVID-19 restrictions became a flashpoint, with DeVore criticizing lockdowns and mandates imposed by Governor Pritzker while Raoul argued for a balanced pandemic response.

How long will Kwame Raoul’s new term last?

The Illinois attorney general serves a four-year term. Raoul will hold the office until January 2027 unless he resigns or is unable to serve.

What were some groups that endorsed Kwame Raoul?

Raoul won endorsements from major labor unions, Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Did the Illinois Republican Party endorse Thomas DeVore?

No, the state GOP declined to endorse DeVore largely due to various controversial statements and stances throughout his career and campaign.

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