The March primary election is three months to the day away, but candidates are already drawing up their battle plans.
Illinois Attorney General candidate Erika Harold, a Republican, made a stop in Chester on Tuesday for a meet and greet lunch that included many of Randolph County's Republican candidates for the upcoming election.
Harold, a 2002 Miss Illinois winner as well as being crowned Miss America in 2003, is running in a wide-open field after incumbent Lisa Madigan announced in September that she would not seek a fifth term as the state's top prosecutor.
Harold also was previously a Republican candidate for the 13th Congressional District seat in 2014, losing to Rodney L. Davis.
"I decided to run for attorney general because I thought the people of our state deserve an attorney general who exercises independent judgement, who will address public corruption and who will enforce the law," Harold said during an interview with the Herald Tribune after the lunch. "I expect this to be an exciting race. There are eight Democrats and so, people are paying a lot of attention to this race."
Among the Democratic field is former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who served from 2009 to 2015. Harold has an easier route to the November general election in only facing one other Republican in DuPage County Board member Gary Grasso.
"People are also paying attention because the attorney general has the ability to affect people's lives in a very positive way," Harold said. "And since it's clear that there will be a change, people are excited about seeing what type of changes might be instituted within that office."
Harold is currently an attorney in private practice with the Meyer Capel law firm in Champaign. She earned her juris doctor degree from Harvard University in 2007 after getting her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Illinois in 2001.
"I was accepted to Harvard Law School and was not in a position to pay for it," Harold said. "And so I picked an unconventional path and entered the Miss America pageant as a means of paying for it.
"I was crowned Miss America 2003 and as a result of winning that pageant, I was able to graduate debt free from Harvard Law School."
Harold noted that the platform of Miss America allowed her to be an advocate for children who had been victimized in school. Harold's platform during the pageant was "Preventing Youth Violence and Bullying: Protect Yourself, Respect Yourself."
"That stemmed from my own experience being a victim of harassment and ultimately having to leave my high school," said Harold, who is of Greek, German and English heritage on her father's side and both Native American and African-American on her mother's. "As Miss America, I was able to advocate for policies that would require schools to protect students from harassment."
Harold was asked her reason for making a stop in Chester.
"It's very important to me as a candidate for attorney general to cover every community within this state," she said. "To be able to introduce myself and to hear from the residents of those communities about the concerns that are the most important to them."
She was further asked what the common concerns were that she is hearing from people.
"People are very concerned about public corruption," she said. "People are concerned about over-regulation, people are concerned about how difficult it is to do business here within Illinois and those are issues that we plan to address."