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Former Miss America running for Illinois attorney general

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 8/15/2017 By Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune
Erika Harold speaks at Margaret Made Jr. High School in Elk Grove Village while reigning Miss America in 2003. © George Thompson/Chicago Tribune/TNS Erika Harold speaks at Margaret Made Jr. High School in Elk Grove Village while reigning Miss America in 2003.

A former Miss America and unsuccessful congressional candidate on Tuesday announced a Republican bid for Illinois attorney general for the chance to challenge four-term Democrat Lisa Madigan.

"Today in Illinois, it's nearly impossible to find opportunity and live out your dreams. Instead, career politicians have made it a nightmare for too many families in our state," Erika Harold says in a two-minute video announcing her candidacy.

"You deserve a state government that works for the people, not the powerful," says Harold, of Urbana. "Changing the status quo is never easy. And I need your help to do it. Together, let's defeat the special interests and send the politicians packing."

The 37-year-old Harold is an attorney at the Meyer Capel law firm in Champaign. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2001 and received a law degree from Harvard Law School in 2007. A 2003 winner of the Miss America pageant, she used her platform to launch a program to combat bullying in schools.

In 2004, Harold was a Republican National Convention delegate and spoke on stage on behalf of the faith-based initiatives of a re-election-seeking President George W. Bush.

A decade later, Harold lost a primary challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville by about 7,000 votes in central Illinois' 13th Congressional District.

The video launching Harold's campaign, funded in part by the Illinois Republican Party, begins by showing a frequent target of both the state GOP and Gov. Bruce Rauner _ Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, the father of Lisa Madigan.

"Protecting the powerful. Squashing reform. Crushing the little guy to preserve the status quo. That's what Springfield does. The Madigan way," a narrator says in the video.

The state GOP, which is heavily subsidized by Rauner, is using a standard template of attacking Democrats across the ballot by attempting to link them to Speaker Madigan. That makes Attorney General Madigan an easy target.

Politically, Harold is a conservative with some views that stand in contrast to the attorney general, who lately has been using the office to join with other Democratic state prosecutors to try to block some of the more controversial moves of the Trump administration.

When she ran for Congress, Harold opposed abortion rights and same-sex marriage and supported gun-owner rights. She also has opposed legalization of marijuana and backed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

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