The Rhode Island attorney general’s office is one of the few in the nation that is responsible not only for civil matters — consumer protection and the like — but criminal prosecution, too.

Like his competitors for the Democratic nomination, Fernandez pushes for deeper engagement on key civil and criminal responsibilities: protecting consumers from utility and insurance rate hikes and cracking down on public corruption.

But he speaks more convincingly than his opponents about the big picture — strengthening Rhode Island’s weak consumer protection law; shifting more resources into the sort of civil suits that can lead to systemic change.

He also makes the most credible claim, of the three Democratic candidates, to outsider status. And while the value of the outsider is often oversold in politics — knowing how to work the system has its advantages — some distance is a good thing for an attorney general tasked with policing a system that is too often corrupt.

State Representative Peter Kilmartin, also running for attorney general, can’t play the anti-politician. He’s been in the General Assembly for 20 years. But if you value experience, he’s got plenty to offer: a career as a Pawtucket policeman, a solid record on law enforcement issues in the legislature, a firm command of the issues.

Fernandez, though, offers a broader vision and the greater potential for change.

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