With the Democratic primary weeks away, Kim Foxx’s re-election bid positions her as a progressive prosecutor for residents, but not welcomed by law enforcement.
The fate of Foxx as the Democratic candidate for Cook County’s state attorney’s position falls on March 17. The heavily Democratic area will more likely vote in whoever wins the primary, but Foxx is up against a blue wall. While she has backed the passage of progressive measures to decriminalize marijuana convictions and reduce felony prosecutions, law enforcement organizations want her out.
A number of local and state unions and organizations have put their support behind Foxx, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. As well, SEIU, a powerful labor organization that is part of a collective of unions called, “Friends of Foxx,” voiced their backing of Foxx.
“She has created the most transparent and approachable State’s Attorney’s office we’ve ever had. She has overturned convictions in dozens of cases that have freed the wrongly convicted,” said Kim Smith, a hospital worker who belongs to SEIU Healthcare Illinois.
Foxx has stood by a record to be a more transparent prosecutor. When she started, she released six years of data outlining what happened in every felony. Plus, she instituted a policy to end prosecuting shoplifting as a felony if the stolen goods were worth less than $1,000. In her tenure, she’s reduced juvenile prosecutions and worked with Code for America, an organization helping governments clear the records of marijuana convictions after decriminalizing laws pass.
However, Foxx’s three opponents, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti, and Donna More, work hard to remove Foxx after serving one term. Her biggest challenger is Conway, the billionaire son of Carlyle Group founder, William E. Conway, Jr. So far, Conway has poured millions into his campaign, a criticism brought up by Foxx.
In an email to her supporters, Foxx said, “We’re up against the son of a billionaire with practically unlimited resources.” Conway’s response to the Chicago Tribune said that Foxx needed to focus “more time trying to get politics out of that office and getting corruption out of this city.”
The disgruntled blue wall
In 2019, the Chicago Police union and suburban chiefs issued a “vote of no confidence” in Foxx’s prosecutorial leadership due to her refusal to file felony charges for certain crimes.
The most visible critique against her is how she handled the Jussie Smollett case in 2019. “The fact that you and your staff have made these decisions without consultation with our departments undermines any statements you have made that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is working with us to maintain safe, crime free communities,” said Duane Mellema, head of the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police at a 2019 press conference representing more than 30 departments of law enforcement.
Smollett, an actor best known for his role on Fox TV’s, “Empire,” reported to Chicago police that he was attacked by two white men who used homophobic remarks and racialized language. In response, the city went on manhunt, resulting in no arrests. However, it was discovered that Smollett faked the accusations, landing Smollett an indictment. Foxx dismissed the charges. Afterwards, Foxx admitted that she could have done it better and recused herself from the case. In February, Smollett was indicted again, but with six new charges.
“Ms. Foxx has repeatedly lied to the public about this,” said Conway about Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case.
The face of racial injustice
Recently, Foxx and Conway debated in the South Side of Chicago at New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville. One of the biggest contentions came during the discussion of immigration. According to the Chicago Defender, both candidates agreed that immigration impacts some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
When Conway spoke he said, “We all have come from immigrants,” using it as a unifying idea encouraging empathy for those hurt by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Administration. Foxx’s response was different. She stated that she was not a descendant of immigrants because she is African American. For her, the term threatened to “minimize what that experience looks like [and] its iteration in our criminal justice system.” Foxx’s retort sums up the history of Blacks in Chicago bearing the brunt of a racialized justice system that has been fully documented.
While the African American community expresses increasing support for Foxx, the race between her and Conway remains close.
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