Senator Kwame Raoul

Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th)

State Senator Kwame Raoul was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 30, 1964, to Haitian-born immigrants Janin Raoul, M.D., and Marie Therese Raoul. On November 6, 2004, Raoul was appointed to fill the vacancy left in the 13th Legislative District by former State Senator Barack Obama’s election to the U.S. Senate.

Since his arrival in Springfield, Sen. Raoul has quickly gained the confidence of leaders to handle difficult negotiations, from workers’ compensation reform to redistricting to one of the most contentious legislative issues in recent memory: comprehensive public employee pension reform. In fact, Senate President John Cullerton trusted him to chair the conference committee that was ultimately able to break the deadlock on the pension question. The Chicago Tribune has characterized Raoul as the "new ‘it guy' in Springfield" for his ability to take on major responsibilities and bridge partisan divides.

An attorney concerned both with crime victims and the rights of the accused, Sen. Raoul consistently backs criminal justice reform legislation designed to make Illinois not just tough on crime, but smart on crime. He sponsored historic legislation abolishing the death penalty and numerous diversion and second-chance programs for non-violent ex-offenders.  He passed legislation aimed at breaking the code of silence by deterring intimidation of those who cooperate with law enforcement officers. He passed landmark law enforcement reform, including standards for officer-worn body cameras to increase trust and transparency. He also has been recognized for his work against domestic violence and on behalf of its victims. Most recently, Sen. Raoul passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform package aimed at reducing gun violence by cracking down on repeat offenders while creating diversion programs that prioritize recovery over recitivism for first-time offenders.

Sen. Raoul has supported efforts to create and retain jobs in Illinois, including convention center reforms and a multibillion-dollar capital bill.  He sponsored legislation extending the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit for companies that locate in economically depressed areas. He recently spearheaded comprehensive workers’ compensation reform expected to save Illinois employers more than half a billion dollars.

During his tenure as chairperson of the Senate’s Pensions and Investments Committee, Sen. Raoul fought to expand opportunities for minority and women-owned financial service firms and to eliminate corruption in the state’s pension systems. 

In 2011, Raoul was tapped to chair the Senate’s Redistricting Committee, which was responsible for developing new legislative and congressional maps. In that role he secured passage of the Illinois Voting Rights Act to protect racial and language minorities and increase transparency and public participation in the redistricting process. Currently, Sen. Raoul serves as chairperson of the Judiciary Committee, vice chairperson of the Criminal Law Committee and a member of the Executive, Gaming and Insurance committees.

Raoul’s life experiences have shaped his legislative philosophy and made him a leading progressive voice in the Illinois Senate. His father, a physician in the Woodlawn, North Kenwood, Grand Boulevard and Englewood communities for over thirty years, kindled in him a personal commitment to health care access and the people of the South Side.

Raoul is a graduate of DePaul University (B.A., Political Science) and the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has worked as a prosecutor for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and in-house counsel for the City Colleges of Chicago. He is now a partner with the nationwide law firm Quarles & Brady. Raoul has been a member of the Board of Directors of International Child Care, a non-profit organization that operates Grace Children’s Hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti, and has been involved in efforts to rebuild the hospital’s inpatient building, which was destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 2010. Raoul also serves on the board of Legal Prep Charter Academies and was previously on the board of the Cook County Bar Association. He is a member of 100 Black Men and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Sen. Raoul is a lifelong resident of the Hyde Park/Kenwood community, where he proudly raises his two children, Che and Mizan. 

Abolishing the death penalty

Raoul championed the historic law which ended the failed experiment of state-sanctioned killing. (P.A. 96-1543)

Historic Illinois Voting Rights Act

Raoul passed the first ever Illinois Voting Rights Act to give added protections to minority voters. (P.A. 96-1541)

Creating jobs and improving our business climate

Raoul passed a plan which created 3,000 jobs at Navistar. He’s also passed reforms to attract new trade shows to McCormick Place. In addition, Raoul negotiated an overhaul to our workers’ compensation system which will save over $500 million a year and save jobs. Senate President Cullerton stated, “this reform package is the single most important thing we can do to improve our business climate and ensure our economic recovery continues.” (P.A. 96-0905, P.A. 96- 0898 & P.A. 97-0018)

Establishing a new model for our schools

Raoul cosponsored the law, lauded by Mayor Emmanuel and U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan, which implemented new standards for educators that put students first! (P.A. 97-0008)

Fighting to keep our neighborhoods safe

Raoul sponsored a law strengthening penalties for repeat gun offenders and putting in place a series of criminal justice reforms prioritizing recovery over punishment for first-time and non-violent offenders (P.A. 100-0003).

Senator Kwame Raoul, SB2609 Criminal Law Committee, Feb. 26, 2014


The people of Illinois deserve a more efficient government. That is why I have worked with the State Comptroller and State Treasurer in sponsoring a Senate Joint Resolution Constituional Amendment 13 to consolidate the two offices -- because the offices have a lot of crossover.This would lead to cost savings for Illinois taxpayers of approximately $12 million annually and would be a step toward good fiscal government. I spoke about my commitment to this issue during a press conference.


Illinois families are hoping that our business community will grow stronger and that job opportunities will increase. In my tenure in the state Senate I have focused on ways to strengthen the Illinois economy. I sponsored Senate Bill 3089 to expand the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit which was a key factor getting Navistar, an international truck and engine corporation, to locate in Illinois. This resulted in more than 3000 jobs.

I also sponsored reforms that will bring business to Navy Pier and McCormick Place. Trade shows and conventions had been canceling events at these locations because fees where comparatively high and booking was complicated by too much red tape, but these reforms will bring business back to Illinois. The Chicago Tribune and CBS Chicago reported that McCormick Place has been able to secure six recommitments from customers for future shows and conventions, in addition to securing new business from three other organizations. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau is projecting that this business will produce more than $1 billion in new spending in Illinois. I made some remarks on the success of these reforms.


Criminal Justice is one of my core passions in public service so this year I was elated and humbled when the governor signed the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois into law. With the abolition our state has parted company with Iran, Saudi Arabia and China, and joined the rest of the civilized world. I sponsored this legislation, but I could not have done it alone. There were many people instrumental to this effort including exonerees, relatives of murder victims, religious leaders, journalists, former federal prosecutors, advocates and legislators in helping enact this law on March 9, 2011. I am thankful for all of their efforts.

As a vice-chairman of the Senate Criminal Law Committee, a former member of the Governor's prison review board and as a lawyer I will continue to fight for criminal justice. It is my goal that we make Illinois safer while also fixing inconsistencies in our criminal justice system.


The election process in Illinois has been in need of reform for a long time. As a freshman in the state Senate I made it my priority to sponsor legislation to reform campaign finance in judicial races. I passed legislation  to create a task force  to study public financing of judicial campaigns. The public expects judges to be impartial, therefore the judiciary should be the last place where special interest money has any influence.

I also voted in favor of legislation to cap campaign contributions. This legislation is a significant step toward limiting the influence of big donors and special interests.


As chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, I have the honor and responsibility to bring opennes to the 2011 Redistricting Process. This level of public access to this process has been unprecedented. For more information visit our Senate Redistricting Committee Website.

I sponsored landmark legistlation to establishes the first changes to the Illinois redistricting process since the 1970 Constitutional Convention and first voting rights act in Illinois history. Despite the challenges state government faces today, this shining achievement continues on a proud and progressive path toward inclusion for all Illinoisans in the political process. 

In the spirit of the civil rights leaders who have come before, this new law offers the fundamental right of opportunity to those who have been ignored. When activist Fannie Lou Hamer said “nobody’s free until everyone is free” she spoke of an inclusive spirit which ultimately states that democracy doesn’t work until everyone is able to participate and is represented. The new law intends to remove the suppression of communities of interest across the state as we work to create a more inclusive environment in Springfield.


Just like states across the nation Illinois is facing challenges with its pension system. As chairman of the Senate Pensions Committee I have worked closely with others in the Illinois General Assembly to make our pension systems sustainable. I voted for a pension reform package that mandates that the state make its pension payment out of existing revenues instead of borrowing. This is a key fiscal reform that addresses our long-term financial issues head on, instead of kicking the can down the road.