Bill Conway is spending big to go after Kim Foxx in state’s attorney’s race

Conway was an unknown, but $7.5 million from his billionaire father have made him Foxx’s closest competitor.

SHARE Bill Conway is spending big to go after Kim Foxx in state’s attorney’s race
Cook County Democratic State’s Attorney candidates, from left, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti, Donna More and incumbent Kim Foxx met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

Cook County Democratic State’s Attorney candidates, from left, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti, Donna More and incumbent Kim Foxx meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

If cash is king in politics, Kim Foxx’s campaign could be cooked.

The beleaguered Cook County state’s attorney is being vastly outspent by former prosecutor Bill Conway, her leading competitor in the March 17 Democratic primary.

It’s a scenario that’s also playing out in the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, among others, are excoriating billionaire Michael Bloomberg for trying to “buy” votes in his late-entry effort.

On Friday, the Foxx reelection campaign dispatched a fundraising plea.“We’re up against the son of a billionaire with practically unlimited resources,” the email read, “and we’re running out of time as Election Day nears.”

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That billionaire is Bill Conway’s father, William E. Conway Jr., a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C.The elder Conway has donated $7.5 million to his son’s first run for office, state records show.

Donna More, also a former prosecutor, and former 2ndWard Ald. Bob Fioretti are also competing to unseat Foxx.

Conway entered the race a virtual unknown but is ramping up his name recognition by spending heavily on TV and digital advertising.For weeks, his ads have been slamming Foxx for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, labeling her a prosecutor who will “just look out for the rich and famous.”

Finally, Foxx is blasting back with her own ad, just up on YouTube.

“To see how Bill Conway’s spending millions of dollars to buy the state’s attorney’s office, follow the money,” it urges.

The ad claims “the Conway family made billions off global conflict, made a killing off weapons makers” and “major defense contracts.”

When questioned about that connection in the past, Conway dodged.“My family has resources. I haven’t been shy about that,” he told the Chicago Tribune earlier this year.“I wish Mrs. Foxx would spend less time attacking my family … and more time trying to get politics out of that office and getting corruption out of this city.”

Foxx’s new ad will hit the airwaves “soon,” according to a source in the campaign.

But the Foxx team must be terrified of the Conway’s cash machine.Armed with his father’s wealth, Conway can easily keep running anti-Foxx ads right through primary day.

Is cash king?There’s an abiding presumption in politics that if you spend big, you win big.

A look at races for U.S. House seats shows that is usually true. according to the Center for Responsive Politics.In House races from 2000 through 2016, more than 90 percent of candidates who spent the most won.The only exception was in 2010.

“In that election, (only) 86 percent of the top spenders won,” Sheila Krumholz, the Center’s executive director, told ABC News last year.

In 2020, Illinois’ local races may be overshadowed by the uber-competitive presidential primary.The high interest in the top of the ticket may distract voters from other “down ballot” races, like the state’s attorney contest.

So, voters may rely even more heavily on ads to guide their voting decisions.

That would be a big mistake.The state’s attorney’s race is about a lot more than billionaires and 30-second ads.

Those flashy, often misleading video snippets can’t convey how crucial criminal justice reform and equity in our courts is to the future of Cook County.No amount of money can substitute for a focused, intelligent analysis of the candidates and the issues.

If voters take that on, Kim Foxx wins.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

Follow Laura Washington on Twitter @mediadervish

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