In the first 11 months of Trump’s presidency his administration has proposed and implemented regressive policies towards women’s reproductive rights, immigration policy and environmental health.
But in the shadow of Trump’s reign, a shining light has emerged to directly and personally oppose his policies to ensure a better future for our country and our families. Sharon Fairley, mother, lawyer and community advocate, is running for attorney general of Illinois to change the trajectory of state and national policy through legislative reform.
“The state’s attorney generals are an incredibly important coalition and the first line of defense against the Trump administration’s policies,” Fairley told HelloBeautiful. “Whether it’s the attacks on voting rights, women’s reproductive rights, the harmful policies being implemented on environmental issues, the disgraceful approach being taken towards immigration policy, and LGBT issues, the attorney general can use the rule of law and the power of the law to push back against this administration.”
And Fairley is well equipped to tackle the gargantuan task ahead. As a lawyer, Fairley has spent years working to support the justice system in Illinois. She served as Assistant Attorney General for the Northern district of Illinois as a federal prosecutor for 8 years investigating crime directly related to illegal firearms possession, narcotics conspiracy, bank robbery/murder, murder for hire and economic espionage, among other criminal acts. In 2015, Fairley was appointed to the Independent Police Review, an agency that oversees police misconduct investigations.
“I have the courage to stand up to bullies.”
Fairley is the only candidate on the ticket who has direct experience in police oversight. Creating legislation to resolve the tensions between community and law enforcement continues to be a fiercely debated topic, as incidents of police brutality continues to garner outrage and concern.
“This is perhaps the most important challenge we face in the criminal justice world, not just here in Chicago but nationally,” Fairley told HB.
“It’s this idea that in order for us to be successful at ensuring public safety, you really have to have trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities that they serve. And when that trust is undermined, than public safety suffers. When I was working for the city of Chicago, I was responsible for the police accountability piece, but I also worked towards pushing reforms at the department that were intended to help restore trust. As a result of that work, the Chicago police department is putting into effect new use of force policies that are much more in line with what the community believes is appropriate conduct on the part of officers,” Fairley revealed.
As attorney general, Fairley seeks to take the pillars of transparency, community engagement and reform from local Chicago districts to statewide policy.
“I have demonstrated in my work in the city, that I have the courage to stand up to bullies. When I took on the police accountability issues, I took some stands that people didn’t like. Officers didn’t like that I was holding police officers accountable in ways they had never been held accountable before. I was not popular, but I didn’t care. That wasn’t my mission. My mission was to provide fair and neutral oversight, and you need the same fair and neutral oversight and courageous thinking in these attorney general offices. So I’m looking forward to having a personal role in pushing back against Trump.”
Since lower income people of color tend to bear the brunt of regressive policy change, Fairley sees her voice in the office as an invaluable perspective.
“I would never ask someone to vote for me just because I’m a Black woman, but as a Black woman, I bring a different kind of leadership and perspective to the issues our state faces.”
“What’s really interesting is I’ve been meeting people who are so supportive in saying we need more women of color going after these positions. Here in Illinois, we are going to have a male governor based on the entrants to the race, and our state legislature is again very male dominated, and we need diversity in thought in the leadership of the state. It’s really important. I would never ask someone to vote for me just because I’m a Black woman, but as a black woman, I bring a different kind of leadership and perspective to the issues our state faces. So I encourage other woman, if you find yourself in that situation and you look around you and no one else is stepping up to the plate, then you have to do it.”
Along with her storied career in the public sector, Fairley plans to use the empathy she has honed as a mom to inform policy change.
“I sat across the table from mothers who have lost their children at the hands of police.”
“I am a mom, and being a mother, you develop empathy and you care for other people. And part of my concern here is that as a Black mother, particularly when I was in a role working on police accountability, I sat across the table from mothers who have lost their children at the hands of police. It was heart wrenching to have these conversations, and it gave me the courage and motivation to try to figure out how can I prevent more mothers from suffering this way. What can I do as a lawyer? What can I do as a professional? And when you see these African American men losing their lives in this way, it’s terrible. I raise a black son, and I worry something as simple as getting pulled over by the police can end in tragedy. And that type of empathy is important in leadership.”
With both women’s issues and policy directly affecting communities of color at stake under our current administration, it is clear we will need a seat at the table to combat the legislative turns that put our livelihood at risk.
“I want to make sure the office stays in the hands of a woman, ” Fairley said, referencing incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who decided not to run again after serving 15 years in the seat.
“The office needs to have the kind of experienced, courageous, and independent leadership that I can bring to it. That’s why I’m running.”
The election for attorney general of Illinois will take place November 6th, 2018. You can donate to Fairley’s campaign here.