Cook County’s first Black State’s Attorney silences critics
By Erick Johnson
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx won re-election in the General Election Tuesday, November 3, defeating Republican Pat O’Brien in a heated race that eventually vindicated the county’s first Black female prosecutor after a long and tough campaign season.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Foxx grabbed 53.7 percent of the vote after some 895,586 voters supported her at the polls. O’Brien received 662,640 votes, taking 39.7 percent of ballots cast.
O’Brien called Foxx late Tuesday evening to concede after a long night that saw the lead flip several times before Foxx sealed her victory with a big lead by 10 p.m.
In his concession speech, O’Brien thanked supporters, saying he “was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but it doesn’t look like there’s enough votes out there.”
“I received a call from Judge O’Brien congratulating me on tonight’s victory,” Foxx said. “I want to thank him for running a formidable race on behalf of the people of Cook County.”
Last week, Foxx spoke at a rally led by the Reverend Al Sharpton. There, Foxx reaffirmed her commitment to bringing fairness to Cook County’s notorious criminal justice system. She recalled how growing up in the Cabrini Green public housing projects shaped her.
O’Brien’s campaign struggled to gain momentum with reminders of his days as a prosecutor in the 1980s where he had four innocent Black teenagers convicted of raping and murdering Lori Ann Roscetti, a promising white female medical student, based on wrongful confessions. Known as “The Roscetti Four,” they were later cleared by DNA evidence after serving 15 years in prison.
In her victory speech Tuesday evening, Foxx thanked the four accused, Omar Muhammad, Calvin Ollins, Larry Ollins and Marcellius Bradford. Foxx said the men supported her re-election campaign.
“They were a reminder of the history in this county of a broken criminal justice system that saw men and women wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit,” Foxx said. “They came from an era in history that feels eerily reminiscent to this moment right now. What they represent by coming and supporting the work of this campaign is a reminder that we cannot go back to the days of old.”
With large support from her mentor Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Foxx was first elected as State’s Attorney in 2016 after running as a reformer in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case. She crushed incumbent Anita Alvarez in the Democratic Primary and later grabbed 72 percent of the vote in the General Election.
One year after Foxx was elected, she announced that prosecutors would no longer oppose the release of pre-trial detainees charged with nonviolent offenses just because they could not afford to pay their cash bond of up to $1,000.
Later that year, Foxx instituted a new policy for prosecutors to recommend in bond court that defendants who are charged with misdemeanors or low-level felonies and “don’t present a risk of violence or flight” be released pending trial. Her office also stopped prosecuting people who were driving with suspended licenses.
Foxx has vacated many convictions of victims of corrupt Chicago police officers who were found to have forced many Black and Latino males to confess to crimes they did not commit. This year, Foxx vacated more than 1,000 marijuana convictions just before marijuana became legal earlier this year on January 1.
During her first term in office, Foxx raised the felony threshold for theft from $300 to $1,000.
As looting and thefts in the Loop and the Mag Mile increased, so did O’Brien’s accusations that Foxx was too soft on criminals as the county’s top prosecutor. There is also the Jussie Smollett case, where her office dropped all charges after the “Empire” actor was charged with staging a homophobic hate crime in Streeterville in 2019.