Candidates in Illinois elections prioritize public health as campaigning winds down

Campaigns employ social distancing and messages about health as coronavirus threat grows.

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Kim Foxx, the incumbent Cook County state’s attorney, visited a South Side church Sunday.

Neal Earley/Sun-Times

Kim Foxx arrived at New Life Covenant Church on the South Side in a black SUV on Sunday with a message — not about the criminal justice issues that have dominated the Cook County state’s attorney’s race, but about public health.

“Rather than being traditionally on the campaign trail, we’re telling everyone who has been with us to volunteer virtually to stay home, to make sure that they keep themselves and their family safe,” Foxx said.

Campaigns are in “unprecedented” territory as the coronavirus pandemic has thrown candidates into flux. Instead of door-knocking and hand-shaking, campaigns are taking a more cautious approach, opting to go with phone-banking and waves to greet constituents.

Under normal circumstances, the pews at New Life Covenant Church would be full, with multiple services a day. But not Sunday. As churchgoers entered the church, they were greeted with welcoming elbow bumps and a video message reminding them to wash their hands and cover their coughs.

Democrat Bill Conway, a former assistant state’s attorney who is challenging Foxx, has raised $11.7 million as of his latest filing, with several multimillion dollar donations coming from his billionaire father, William Conway Jr.

In the final days of the campaign, Conway has tried to emphasize his military background, as U.S. Navy veteran. Like so many campaigns, Conway’s has mostly ceased with its traditional in-person canvassing, directing his staff to finish the campaign remotely.

”No election is as important as the health and safety of our volunteers, our staff, and the public in general,” said Eliza Glezer, a spokeswoman for the Conway campaign in a statement.

Conway will make a public appearance Monday with his family to vote early at the Loop Super Site.

Former Ald. Bob Fioretti, another Foxx challengers, had most of his planned events Sunday canceled.

Fioretti said he made a radio interview appearance and spent time talking with first responders, emphasizing his message that he would be a calming alternative to Foxx.

“I’m the only candidate with the integrity, the experience, and the temperament to have the voters vote me into this office,” Fioretti said.

In 3rd Congressional District, candidates take health precautions

In Illinois’ contentious 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary, campaigns are adjusting to coronavirus safety measures.

Challenger Marie Newman stood outside at early-vote centers, keeping a six-foot distance away from people, as is recommended by health officials.

Incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski cast his vote for Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary on Friday and then appeared at an “abbreviated version” of the Archer Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade on the Southwest Side. On Sunday, Lipinski appeared at no events, a spokeswoman said.

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