Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx faces reelection battle


Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune

Kim Foxx at the Illinois Primary Election night earlier this year. Foxx was reelected for Cook County State’s Attorney Tuesday night, pulling in 52 percent of the votes.

Sam Heller, Assistant City Editor

After four years as Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx is running for re-election, facing off against Republican Pat O’Brien and Libertarian Brian Dennehy for the position.

While Foxx is favored in the general election, she made national news last year in her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, which her opponents believe may hurt her chances of reelection.

In January 2019, the actor was indicted for filing a false police report. Smollett initially claimed that he was a victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime, but there was later said to be evidence he staged the incident.

Foxx dropped all criminal charges in March 2019, prompting criticism from her opponents, who said the decision was unjustified.

Due to the Smollet case and Foxx’s handling of the recent protests in Chicago, some Democratic organizations and figures have endorsed O’Brien instead. One of the most prominent Democratic figures to support O’Brien is Chicago Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who originally endorsed Democratic primary candidate Bill Conway.

The American Middle East Voters Alliance PAC, a coalition that spreads voter information among residents of Middle Eastern ancestry, endorsed Foxx in 2016, but this year will be endorsing O’Brien.

When the PAC endorsed Foxx in 2016, the group expected to see a larger representation of minorities within her administration and stronger actions against hate crimes. They didn’t feel like either of these criteria were met, AMVOTE-PAC Chairman William Haddad said. He also said the organization does not feel that Foxx has handled prosecution in relation to the protests in Chicago well.

While AMVOTE-PAC is supporting certain other Democratic candidates, Haddad said that the vote to endorse O’Brien was unanimous.

“It takes a lot when you have a minority group supporting a minority candidate in the last election to do a complete reversal,” Haddad said.

Another group that believes Foxx has not done a good job in office is the apolitical Chicago Justice Project, which sued Foxx’s office two weeks out from the election due to issues with transparency.

Executive Director Tracy Siska said the group sued Foxx’s predecessor in 2015 in regards to transparency issues. Before Foxx’s 2016 election, Siska sat down with the current State’s Attorney and made it clear that if she did not abide by being transparent, they would sue her as well.

Almost immediately after entering office, Foxx breached the settlement agreement that closed out the group’s last lawsuit. Since then, there have been various instances where the office has claimed not to have documents that did actually exist, he said. Siska said he does not believe the timing of the lawsuit should not have an impact on the election. Transparency is a bipartisan issue, he said, so regardless of who is in office after the election they will hold them to a high standard.

“She knew what was coming,” Siska said. “The date of this is all her doing.”

Despite individual’s grievances with Foxx, Eamon Kelly, Democratic Party of Evanston chairman, said Foxx has completed many impressive things throughout her time in office and is a far stronger candidate to have in office than O’Brien.

Kelly said Foxx has helped shift the criminal justice system away from its concerning history of false prosecutions and has done a good job shifting focus away from petty crimes towards more substantial ones.

Kelly said the emphasis on Smollett has been used to distract from the good Foxx has done.

The other important thing to focus on is keeping O’Brien, who has been using “Trump-like tactics” throughout the election cycle, out of office, he said.

“There are deeply entrenched interests that want to preserve the status quo of our broken criminal system, and Kim has been taking them on effectively,” Kelly said. “(O’Brien) represents the fightback by those interests; we just have to resist it.”

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