Former appellate court judge enters race to replace Kim Foxx as top Cook County prosecutor

Eileen O’Neill Burke, who stepped down as an appellate court judge this month, is the second candidate to enter the race for Cook County state’s attorney.

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Eileen O’Neill Burke

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Eileen O’Neill Burke, who stepped down this month as a justice of the state appellate court, has announced her bid to replace Kim Foxx as Cook County state’s attorney.

O’Neill Burke, a former assistant state’s attorney who was elected to a seat on the Chicago-based First Circuit Appellate Court in 2016, will kick off her candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination with a July 26 fundraiser at the Plumbers 130 Hall in Chicago. O’Neill Burke is the second candidate to enter the race to replace Foxx, who announced in April that she would not seek a third term in office.

O’Neill Burke joins Clayton Harris, a professor of public policy at University of Chicago who received an endorsement from county Democratic Chairwoman and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at a pre-slating event for party officials in June. Preckwinkle also had backed Foxx in her two turbulent but successful campaigns.

O’Neill Burke’s campaign sent a copy of her biography in response to a request for comment from the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday. No campaign finance documents had been filed by her campaign as of Thursday, but candidates are not required to do so until they’ve raised more than $5,000. Harris filed his campaign finance forms last week, but he has not filed any information indicating he has raised any funds.

O’Neill Burke served as an assistant state’s attorney for 10 years, “handling felony appellate cases while supervising other attorneys’ appellate cases,” as well as stints working in the juvenile courts and felony review. After working for the state’s attorney, she worked as a defense lawyer before winning a seat on the Cook County Circuit Court bench in 2008 and appellate court in 2016.

O’Neill Burke was born and raised on the Northwest Side and lived for 20 years in Park Ridge before moving to the South Loop. Her husband, John Burke, is managing partner of the Chicago branch of the giant Ice Miller law firm.

It was not clear from the campaign bio whether O’Neill Burke would stake out a “tough-on-crime” approach to the job, following two successful campaigns by Foxx— who won her first term with a reform-minded platform that was boosted by the wave of protest following the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Foxx won reelection in 2020 despite surging violent crime amid the COVID-19 pandemic and national outcry and a special prosecutor’s investigation into her handling of the prosecution of actor Jussie Smollett for faking a hate crime attack.

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In her bio, O’Neill Burke said leading the state’s attorney’s office “requires thoughtful reform and restorative justice, to ensure that the system focuses on safety and fairness, not jailing people indefinitely because they are poor or mentally ill.”

“Above all, Eileen knows that no state’s attorney can be successful without earning the trust of the public.”

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