Mar 1, 2024 - News

The race for Cook County state's attorney heats up

Illustration of a check mark being drawn in front of the Chicago City Hall facade in the colors of the city flag

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The race to replace outgoing Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx may be more about philosophy than personality.

Why it matters: The state's attorney oversees the second-largest prosecutor's office in the country, with more than 1,200 employees.

State of play: Two candidates have emerged for the Democratic primary. Clayton Harris III has the backing of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, while Judge Eileen O'Neill Burke was just endorsed by the Chicago Tribune.

  • The winner will almost certainly win the general election, as Cook County voters have historically skewed left.

Zoom in: Foxx rode the wave of victories for progressive prosecutors in 2016 and has enacted policies intended to avert harsh punishments for smaller crimes.

  • Under Foxx, the office prioritized overturning convictions of victims of alleged police misconduct, while also pushing the SAFE-T Act, which eliminated cash bail.

Yes, but: Opponents have blamed her and her policies for an uptick in robberies, carjackings and other violent crimes.

  • She also butted heads with the Chicago Police Union and former Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot over lenient sentencing.

Reality check: Foxx has pushed back on critics' claims that her policies have caused crime to spike, pointing to the dreadfully low clearance and arrest rates from Chicago police, arguing her office can't prosecute criminals if they aren't arrested first.

Zoom out: Harris and Burke both have pledged to continue Foxx's progressive prosecutorial policies.

  • Harris has said he wants to put more resources into exploring the root causes of crime, not just putting people in prison. Harris worked under State's Attorney Dick Devine.
  • O'Neill Burke, a former appellate judge, says she won't stray much from Foxx's policies, but is vowing to lower the threshold for felony retail theft from $1,000 to $300.

By the numbers: WBEZ has reported where the two candidates are getting their money.

  • Harris has pulled in substantial contributions from various unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union.
  • O'Neill Burke is out-fundraising Harris with support from law firms and employees from the hedge fund Citadel, which is owned by billionaire Ken Griffin.

The other side: Former alderperson Bob Fioretti is running unopposed on the Republican ballot. Andrew Kopinski is running unopposed on the Libertarian ticket.

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