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Laura Washington: Foxx says she’ll be beholden only to voters

Kim Foxx poses for a portrait before an interview with The Associated Press, two days after her primary win over incumbent Democratic Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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The “beholden” thing just won’t go away.

During the heated campaign for Cook County state’s attorney, the rap on Kim Foxx was that she was “beholden.”

Foxx is a patsy for the county’s most powerful politician, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the argument went.

Preckwinkle pulled out all the stops to champion Foxx, her former chief of staff.

OPINION

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The brickbats flew from Foxx’s Democratic Primary opponents. Incumbent Anita Alvarez blasted Foxx as a “political puppet” to a “political boss.”

Foxx is “Toni Preckwinkle’s proxy in the state’s attorney’s race,” Donna More was quoted as saying in the Chicago Sun-Times. “If people don’t want an independent criminal justice system, then I suppose that’s OK.”

Foxx answered the “beholden” question dozens of times. Her answer: she would be an independent reformer. I am told that Foxx is acutely weary of that question. And Preckwinkle didn’t show up for Foxx’s primary night celebration, so as not to overshadow the sweeping victory.

Meanwhile, reporters, analysts and Foxx critics continue the “beholden” drumbeat. Voters should fear that Foxx will be “owned” and take orders from Preckwinkle, they suggest.

The idea that African Americans own anything is a revelation to some, and an irritation to others.

Yes, Foxx owes much to the political clout and financial largess of Preckwinkle. Yes, good politics is about accumulating power, through endorsements, campaign cash, and clout. And yes, some use that power to get good things done.

The Dunnes, the Daleys, the Madigans, were mighty Cook County bosses. They also got some good things done.

Toni Preckwinkle is a powerful politician and competent executive who has made solid reforms in the county’s health care and financial operations. Now the veteran politician is mentoring a protégé who shares her top priority: to advance a criminal justice system that values people over punishment. What’s wrong with that?

And Foxx is no patsy. She was born to a teen mother and grew up in Cabrini Green, then the most notorious housing project in the nation. A vivid childhood memories has her huddling in a bathtub to hide from gunshots. Sometimes, her family subsisted on food stamps and bricks of government cheese. Other times, she was homeless. Many of her classmates, neighbors and friends who now languish in poverty, jail, prison, and worse.

She prevailed, rose up and out, and is now poised to become the first African-American woman to serve as the county’s top prosecutor.

“I think we left so many people behind who could be productive members of our society,” Foxx told me early in the campaign. “And a lot of them are in jails not because they are, like these horrible scary people, but [because] we have policies in place that are really punishing people for things that shouldn’t be dealt with in the criminal justice system.”

More than 621,000 Democratic primary voters chose Foxx. She won 58 percent of the vote, running up big totals in both Chicago and suburban Cook. That’s a mandate to prosecute crime with fairness, humanity and trust.

So one more time: Are you beholden?

“If elected in November,” Foxx responded Friday in a statement. “I will take an oath that I’ve taken before as a prosecutor to serve the people of Cook County, and only them.”

On Election Day, only one boss counts.

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