CHICAGO — The race for Cook County State’s Attorney will be one of the most watched contests in the spring.
This week, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx kicked off her bid for re-election. She is getting her campaign going early because she’s got challengers.
Her case for another term is she’s moving forward with criminal justice reform and public safety.
But the Jussie Smollett saga has left Foxx bruised. She said she hears the criticism.
“You know when I came into office we had one of the bloodiest years in the city of Chicago in almost 20 years.” She told WGN News Tahman Bradley. “When I looked at our resources, we realized that we were spending far too many of our resources on low-level offenses and not enough going after gun violence. And for us we made a priority to use our resources for violent offenses. And for cases that could be dealt with outside the justice system, we would do that. And this case was treated like the thousands of other cases similar to that.”
But it’s not clear that’s what happened.
When Smollett’s claim that he was a victim of a hate crime fell apart, the actor was charged with 16 criminal counts. Foxx recused herself from the case due to conflicts of interest, and ultimately all charges were dropped.
“I have an obligation as an elected official to show our work, to let people know how we do our work and why we do our work,” Foxx said. “And I fell short of our standards on that. But the fact of the matter is that this case or this race is about more than just this one case.”
Foxx’s handling of the case drew strong condemnation from police, her partners in fighting crime. The Fraternal Order of Police called on Foxx to resign.
“The FOP is not about moving forward with a justice agenda that keeps our communities safe and addressing criminal justice reform,” she said.
Foxx has also taken heat for her handling of shoplifting.
“I think facts matter. And I got back to where we started in 2016, we were sent more retain theft cases to review for charges than we were guns,” Foxx said. “4,000 people shot in the city of Chicago. I don’t have infinite resources, I have a limited number of prosecutors and I think the people want us to use our resources to be able to keep communities safe. We still prosecute shoplifting cases. I think there was misinformation about that. We treat them as misdemeanors.”
So far Foxx has at least two formidable primary challengers. But she has an all-star list of Democratic Party support including Governor JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle.
Foxx ousted Anita Alvarez in the 2016 primary promising reform. The voters were angry with Alvarez then. Now, some are angry with Foxx.
“It’s a difficult job but I knew that when signed up. And what I know is that what happened in 2016 was not just about Anita Alvarez, it was about moving forward on criminal justice,” she said.
Foxx is betting that voters like her reform agenda -- going easier on low-level offenders while stepping up prosecution of gun offenses.