CARBONDALE — Erika Harold isn’t an average Republican.
The former Miss America turned lawyer, turned Republican attorney general candidate breaks from her party on some issues, particularly the wholesale legalization of marijuana.
Meeting with The Southern Illinoisan editorial board, Harold said it would not be her job as attorney general to take a stand on the social side of marijuana use, just the legal side, and from where she sits there are bigger fish to fry. She also said it could boost the economy in a state that desperately needs a shot in the arm.
Her stance on the drug has changed in the last five or six years, she said, because of a case she took on in her private practice that made her consult with a THC scientist. She said what she learned through this work shaped her current beliefs on the use of marijuana. She said it should be limited to use by adults.
Addressing the opioid crisis is one of those bigger fish to fry, she said. Harold said she favors the use of problem-solving courts that focus on veterans and low-level, nonviolent drug offenders that promotes treatment rather than lengthy prison terms for offenders.
However, she said legally it is complicated. Unlike substances like heroin or cocaine, the synthetic opioids have legitimate medical uses, so their regulation is challenging, she said.
Beyond her stance on drug law, Harold laid out her position on a variety of issues, honing in on breaking up political corruption — a tall order in Illinois, she admitted — as well as reforming the state’s internal investigations for harassment.
“Springfield has shown itself completely incapable of policing itself,” she said, adding that it also has forgotten the meaning of the word independent.
Harold said she would push for legislation that would give the legislative inspector general greater autonomy in conducting investigations of harassment. She said that currently, should the inspector general want to pursue legal action, it would need permission from the legislative ethics commission, which is made up of the body that could be being investigated.
Harold said she believes that positions on the commission should be opened to the public, which she said would again hold the elected representatives accountable, not only to themselves, but also to the public.
She said she also wants to focus on simply enforcing the law and this would start with a focus on Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act violations.
“Those statutes only matter if you can get a timely resolution,” Harold said.
Harold also said she would push for more power being given to the AG's office to do things like send subpoenas and other legal actions. She said these added powers would be of use when trying to bust up corruption.
When asked if she has buy-in from legislators for this, she said she did, but couldn’t name names and stopped short of saying it was bipartisan. She said because of the election, Democrats are reticent to tag on to a plan from a Republican candidate.
When asked how she planned to work with a potentially Democrat-led General Assembly should she win, Harold said she hopes that her nontraditional platforms on things like criminal justice reform and legalizing marijuana might give her an in with those across the aisle from her politically.
Harold will face Kwame Raoul in November’s general election.