Mar 20, 2024 - News

Democratic primary for Cook County state's attorney too close to call

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

Former Judge Eileen O'Neill Burke and former prosecutor Clayton Harris III are locked in a heated Democratic primary battle for Cook County state's attorney.

Why it matters: The contentious race, which is too close to call, may serve as a referendum for outgoing State's Attorney Kim Foxx's more progressive policies.

By the numbers: O'Neill Burke leads Harris by under 10,000 votes, per AP.

Data: Associated Press; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: Associated Press; Table: Axios Visuals

Yes, but: The Chicago Board of Elections says there are approximately 109,000 mail-in ballots yet to be counted.

  • The board will continue counting Wednesday. They have until April 2 to certify the election results.

What they're saying: "We are cautiously optimistic, but we have to make sure all the votes are counted," O'Neill Burke said in a speech Tuesday night.

The big picture: In the final days of the race, it became clear that the candidates were lining up for another community vs. downtown business campaign, similar to the 2023 Chicago mayoral race between Mayor Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas.

By the numbers: More than $4.2 million was funneled into this race, with contributions coming from 27 different states, campaign finance records show. While that is a substantial number for any countywide race, it pales in comparison with the $16 million reported during the 2020 primary.

  • O'Neill Burke raised millions of dollars from downtown businesses and restaurant groups and pulled in endorsements from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Chamber of Commerce. She also outspent her opponent, flooding the local airwaves with ads.
  • Harris was backed by Cook County Democrats and the Chicago Teachers Union. Both backed Foxx in the last election.

Flashback: Foxx is stepping down after two terms in office. The progressive prosecutor 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.

Between the lines: Opponents have blamed her policies for an uptick in robberies, carjackings and other violent crimes.

State of play: The state's attorney oversees the second-largest prosecutor's office in the country, with more than 1,200 employees.

What's next: In the Republican primary, former alderperson Bob Fioretti ran unopposed. He and Libertarian Andrew Kopinski will face off versus O'Neill Burke or Harris in November.

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Check back for details.


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