On the selection of Kwame Raoul as State Senator
page is a service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and the
HPKCC website, www.hydepark.org. It reflects the opinion of many on process
for filling vacancies, feeling reinforced by several high-profile elevations
since (often of close relatives of deceased or retired high-powered figures.
It does not reflect upon Mr. Raoul or others who took part in vetting
of candidates by voting committeemen (and at least there was a vetting
in this case, decision already made or not).
Newly appointed state senator Kwame Raoul, with 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, attending the University of Chicago Service League Homecoming Luncheon, Nov. 20, 2004
Photo courtesy of Mary Rose Shaughnessy
chosen to fill Obama's state senate seat
By MELANIE COFFEE, AP
CHICAGO (AP) - A former Cook County prosecutor was chosen Saturday to fill the state senate spot vacated by U.S. Sen.-elect Barack Obama.
Kwame Raoul, 40, was sworn in after Democratic committeemen interviewed seven candidates to represent the 13th District on Chicago's South Side.
"I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and starting immediately," said Raoul, who currently serves as an attorney with the City Colleges of Chicago. Officials had been pressed to choose Obama's replacement quickly because the General Assembly's fall veto session starts Monday.
Obama officially resigned Thursday after he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Committee chairman Leslie Hairston said Raoul stood out among the other candidates because of his commitment to Chicagoans and his ward organization. He has twice unsuccessfully run for 4th ward alderman.
"I think he'll be an excellent state senator," Hairston said. "He's got the fire in his belly."
Raoul said he'll be an advocate for public education, transportation and health care.
"I walk into it with a very open mind, but with the promise that I'm going to evaluate and analyze things in great detail and look after the best interest of my constituents," he said.
He said he has raised $60,000 in campaign money and is on track to raise more than $200,000 for the primary in March 2006.
Raoul, who grew up in Chicago, has practiced law since 1993. He serves on the board of directors of the Cook County Bar Association and the Cook County Bar Foundation. He also heads the Janin and Marie Raoul Foundation, which promotes health care.
Others who vied to replace Obama were Will D. Burns, a senior adviser to Illinois Senate President Emil Jones; Stephen Stern, former president of the Cook County Bar Association; attorney Al Hofeld Jr.; the Rev. James Demus, the president of the South Side NAACP; Chris Stanek, a management consultant; and Wendy Allen Ayers.
11/06/04 16:48 EST
Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
Hyde Parker appointed to Obama's state Senate seat
by Jeremy Adragna
Hyde Park attorney Kwame Raoul was named to replace Barack Obama in the state legislature Saturday following a months-long campaign which drew a small crowd of candidates seeking the seat. Raoul was immediately sworn in that afternoon.
The announcement came from Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who headed an 11-member committee to find a replacement from among seven candidates, many of whom call Hyde Park home. The committee met in a McCormick Place conference room for several hours where t hey interviewed candidates individually on policy positions and their backgrounds.
Raoul was the only candidate who had experience running for office, which may have been the deciding factor in his being chosen. He campaigned unsuccessfully to unseat Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who was also on the selection committee, and also for the 12th Senatorial District seat in 1996. Raoul is a senior attorney for the City Colleges of Chicago who, along with the heavy campaigning in recent months, helped craft a contract between faculty and chancellors of at the schools the same day as the appointment, ending a three-week walkout by teachers.
"He has demonstrated a desire to represent the people of the district before," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1), who is also 2nd ward committeeman. "He ran unsuccessfully but he ran. He has had the stick-to-it-ness that I'm impressed by. He's not a fly-by-night individual who just woke up and decided he wanted to run for office."
Raoul and others were grilled by the committee, which was made up of mostly aldermen from wards that comprise the 13th District, with the exception of Rush. Alds. Arenda Troutman (20th) and Dorothy Tillman (3rd) were absent.
The announcement came as a surprise to some. Will Burns, who works as an advisor to state Senate President Emil Jones, raised over $40,000, he said, and seemed to hold pole position in the campaign for appointment because of his proximity to Jones. Burns left hurriedly following the announcement but vowed to run against Raoul in the 2006 election "You have to trust the judge ment of the committeemen and respect their decision," Burns said to reporters. "We live in America and there's going to be elections in 2006 and we'll see what happens then."
Raoul said he was eager to begin work with Jones and other Democrats in Springfield. He was to attend the legislatures's fall veto session beginning Monday. The session lasts until Nov. 18. He was sworn in by state Supreme Court judge Alan Freeman on the spot.
Raoul replaces former state Sen. Obama, who was elected to the U.S. Senate Nov. 2 and resigned his old post Thursday. Obama did not however consult with the committee or make a recommendation prior to appointment according to Hairston.
"I think Kwame [Raoul] is more than qualified and I think he's got that fire in his belly," Hairston said. "He has exposure and experience with constituent services. He has demonstrated for the past few years his commitment to his constituents."
Raoul said he has raised $60,000 throughout his campaign and says he will continue fundraising until the 2006 primary.
Other candidates included Hyde Park Attorney Al Hofeld, Jr., who received the only vote not cast for Raoul and said he will mull over running in 2006; former Cook County Bar Association President Stephen Sten; Park Manor Christian Church pastor James L. Demus III; Hyde Park consultant Chris Stanek; and Hyde Parker Wendy Alan Ayers.
Raoul said he would immediately work on issues involving funding for public schools and the Chicago Transit Authority which he said was "in a crisis situation." "I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and starting immediately," Raoul said.
Herald editorial November 10, 2004
A war of words has taken place on the Herald's letters page over the past three months. We posed the following question to our readers in August: who should represent the lakefront in Springfield if Hyde Park Sen. Barack Obama is elected to the U.S. Senate Nov. 2?
Within a week, we were inundated with letters to the editor and the flood has not ceased since. The same three names kept surfacing: Will Burns, Al Hofeld, Jr. and Kwame Raoul. They were the people's choice in the non-election of 2004, a decision left up to only a handful of local Democratic committeemen including Alds. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th). The Herald believes that committee made a good choice in appointing Raoul this weekend.
We'll let the letters speak for themselves. Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan said in a sept. 8 letter that Raoul "truly understands how public policy issues relating to education, public safety, healthcare and economic development shape our community and limit or increase our opportunities."
Seniorities B. Bracey, a pre-school manager from North Kenwood, said in an Aug. 18 letter that Raoul "is an advocate of early childhood education and will continue to strive for higher learning for all youths." Other letter writers say Raoul, a senior attorney for the City Colleges of Chicago, is cut from the same fabric as the man he replaces.
The Herald has witnessed first-hand and even endorsed Raoul's previous bids for public office which include a run for 4th Ward alderman and state senator for the 12th district. He has earned the respect of many of his peers, his constituents and this newspaper. We hope Raoul will represent the 13th Senatorial District with as much persistence as he has in acquiring a seat in Springfield.
That being said, the Herald believes that both Hofield and Burns will make effective candidates in 2006, when Raoul's seat will be up for re-election, and they should both stick around for the race.
Father shaped Raoul's career
Hyde Park Herald, December 1, 2004. By Jeremy Adragna
As he stood in Conference Room 23 at McCormick Place on Nov. 6, right arm raised, prepared to pledge, while balancing his 4-year-old daughter on his left hip, Hyde Parker Kwame Raoul choked back tears and was sworn in as the newest state Senator for the Lakefront District.
The tears were for his Haitian-born father who had died on the same day one year earlier after battling prostate cancer. Dr. Janin Raoul, who practiced internal medicine in the Woodlawn neighborhood for nearly 30 years, begrudgingly supported his only son Kwame as he made three failed attempts at reaching public office. Raoul had run for alderman against Toni Preckwinkle twice and had once in 1996 even tried for the state Senate against incumbent Robert Malaro(D-12) but lost despite being backed by Chicago's daily newspapers.
"After a couple of losses I definitely got the sense that he thought I was spinning my wheels," said Raoul, 40, of his father."The one thing I regret is that the appointment wasn't a year earlier." Near the end of last year, leading up to his father's death, Raoul says he spent the majority of his time in Deltona, Fla. where his parents retired after raising three children in Hyde Park. Dr. Raoul's cancer had metastasized in June 2003 and [he] was given until the end of the year to live.
But looking back on his relationship with his father now Raoul says the two did not meld well when he was a child growing up in Hyde Park. The relationship was tumultuous at best, as Raoul says, "he was the boss." "Growing up it was a challenging relationship," Raoul said. "I wish it was closer, warmer as a child instead of having to constantly learn life lessons."
Raoul says what he learned from his father, while the two made house calls together throughout the South Side, was that the neighborhoods south of downtown have for a long-time been depressed economically and that the residents who live here are not afforded proper medical care, an issue close to Dr. Raoul's heart.
Part of what he learned from his father he says he now passes on to his own family. Eight years ago Raoul met a Washington D.C. native named Kali Evans by chance at a friend's birthday party. A year later the two were married and they now have two children --a son Che, 6, and a daughter Mizan, 4.
As he sat at his father's side during the final months of his life Raoul finally told his father how he would change the problems of Chicago's South Side. "I started spending a lot of time with him and shared with him my passions. He was wondering whether I was ever going to give up on seeking elected office," Raoul said. "At the same time he respected my decision and was supportive. Then he started getting his network of Haitian doctors to contribute. He did what a father should do."
Dr. Raoul died on Nov. 6 2003 in Deltona, Fla. at the age of 75, and months later Raoul was gearing up for a push to replace Hyde Park state Senator Barack Obama, who had already been barreling toward victory before November. It was the rest of his close-knit family and friends who saw him through the months of living-room style campaigning leading up to November.
Raoul's sister Ninaj Raoul of Brooklyn, N.Y. and his mother Marie lent the campaign a total of $35,000. A colleague and friend, Alan King, volunteered to head u the campaign. Fellow University of Chicago Lab school friends rallied behind Raoul to fund the push and most flooded the Herald with letters on his behalf, including Chicago Public Schools executive and Hyde Parker Arne Duncan.
When it came time to present his ideas before a selection committee of alderman and one U.S. Congressman, Raoul came prepared. Committee members fired questions at all seven candidates on a range of topics, mainly casino gambling in Chicago and their abilities to work with a diverse constituency. As Gold Coast Ald. Burt Natarus asked bluntly, "are you comfortable with coming up North and talking with the white folks?" The Lakefront District stretches along Lake Michigan from 95th Street north to Division Street through Chicago's most affluent and most downtrodden neighborhoods.
Raoul relied on his experience in Hyde Park's diverse schools as a student, a stint as assistant State's Attorney, and his current job with the City Colleges as a labor attorney.
Raoul was chosen after three-hours of interviews and campaigning since last March for the support of Hyde Park's political engine that has booster the likes of Paul Douglas, Carol Moseley Braun, and most recently Barack Obama to the United States Senate.
"I don't think that's coincidental," Raoul said. "On the year anniversary of [my father's death], I know he was there in spirit."
Raoul reported May 4 that he had successfully moved to the House all the bills he presented as chief sponsor for at full Senate vote. By admission, colleagues and leadership made sure he was involved as sponsor, but introducing so many bills and getting 8 passed is unusual for a first-termer.
Chief Sponsor SB409 changes required schooling start from 7 to 5, retaining parental delay for the unprepared. Passed Senate
Co-Sponsor SB750 that shifts and increases funding source for schools. (With Sen. Meeks) (Failed)
Chief Sponsor of SB3822
clarifying that districts and community based agencies are eligible to use ISBE
Early Childhood Block Grants for 0-3 as ell as traditional pre-school.
Chief Sponsor SB416 facilitating relocation of domestic violence victims
Chief Sponsor SB104 deterring arson in correctional facilities
Chief Senate Sponsor HB389 deterring identity theft and computer spy ware
Chief Co-Sponsor SB405
limiting children's exposure to violent video games
Chief Senate Sponsor HJR100 (93rd Gen. Ass) to secure the Rare Isotope Accelerator for Argonne Nat'l Lab
Chief Co-Sponsor SB851 to create funding for apprenticeship programs for women and minorities in the construction trade
Payday lenders (see Payday Loans page)
Chief Sponsor SB1100 limiting interest rates charged by lender and limiting loans to 25% of monthly gross income. Passed, Gov. says will sign
Co-Sponsor SB75 providing funds to create more affordable housing units, subsidy to landlords servicing low income renters.
Chief Sponsor HB466 expanding eligibility requirements for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and transfers funds into LIHEAP.
Chief Senate Sponsor of HB433 to make asbestos dumping a Class 4 felony
Chief Co-Sponsor of SB11 for affordable health care insurance for employees of small businesses
Chief Co-Sponsor of SB7 to create health care enterprise zones for areas in the state with a shortage of medical services, giving breaks to practitioners in those zones. With Sen. Claybourne
Chief Co-Sponsor of SB2100 aimed at providing funding for stem cell research
Co-Sponsor of SB1 creating a scratch-off lottery game for breast cancer research and victim services
Chief Sponsor of SB581 curbing racial profiling of pedestrians by policemen through a Chicago pilot on pedestrian traffic stops. Passed Senate, awaiting House vote
Co-Sponsor of SB3186protecting against housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Passed
Chief Sponsor of SB1953 guarantee minors representation by counsel in criminal proceedings
Chief Sponsor of SB1715 to facilitate getting the seniors homestead exemption
Campaign Finance Reform
Chief Sponsor of SB1955 limiting the amount of money spent on Supreme Court elections
Co-Sponsor SB1697, SB1683, SB1696 provide convenient early voting and protect in case of change of address.
Chief Sponsor of SB530 expediting service of process on deadbeat parents
Pensions and Investments Vice Chair, Commerce and Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Higher Education, Judiciary
Autumn report to constituents, Nov. 2 2005 Herald
First, he found much commonality of interest around all parts of the state. Second, he felt he was able to accomplish much in education, healthcare, consumer protection and public safety. (It didn't hurt that much was pushed his way, but he took advantage of it.)
He believes a solid foundation has been built for leveling the school playing field via Bill 755. He worked for early childhood education, some passed other parts not-yet. Passed was new resources for parental involvement at lowest performing schools. Bills were passed to narrow the digital divide.
One of the reasons Raoul was selected to fill now U.S. Sen. Obama's vacancy in the state senate was campaign experience. In announcing his bid for the March 6 primary, at the September 4th Ward meeting, Raoul touted bills passed. The petition season for candidates opened September 20. It appears Raoul will have no challengers, Rep. Currie is expected to.