clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Foxx wins Democratic primary in state’s attorney’s race as Conway concedes

Kim Foxx pointed to her record as a reformer as she tried to overcome the controversy of her handling of the Jussie Smollett case. Her main opponent, Bill Conway, poured millions of dollars into the race but lost anyway.

Incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx smiles as she walks off the stage at the Hotel Essex Chicago Tuesday night after winning the Democratic primary.
Incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx smiles as she walks off the stage at the Hotel Essex Chicago Tuesday night after winning the Democratic primary.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx fended off her three Democratic challengers Tuesday night, moving closer to winning a second term after months of swatting away criticism for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

Foxx had 48% of the vote with about 85% of precincts reporting, according to unofficial totals. Former prosecutor Bill Conway, who poured millions of dollars of his father’s money into his bid to oust Foxx, was in second place with 33% of the vote and conceded the race.

Gambling lobbyist Donna More, who ran against Foxx for the seat in 2016, had about 14% of the vote while former 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti had 5%.

In her victory speech, Foxx thanked her campaign staff for their work “in a battle against dollars that were being poured into this.”

“There was an effort to make this election about one big case involving a celebrity,” Foxx said. “The voters have overwhelmingly put that fallacy to rest.”

Foxx spent much of the speech touting her reform efforts.

”Tonight, the voters have once again spoken and are calling us to continue our mandate of criminal justice reform,” Foxx said. “They are calling us to continue to make Cook County a model for this country. I pledge to keep pushing for that change that is fair, that is just, that is equitable while keeping our communities safe.”

Concerns around the spread of the coronavirus meant candidates pared down their election-night watch parties — if they chose to have in-person events at all.

Foxx’s party, at Hotel Essex in the South Loop, was a small gathering, largely for reporters. Foxx cancelled her larger Election Night party “to prioritize public health during these unprecedented times,” Foxx’s campaign manager Chrystian Woods said in an email.

Instead of an election night party, Conway spent his evening as he’s spent much of the last few days — at home with his family. Later, he went to his campaign headquarters where he livestreamed his concession speech on Facebook and tried to look ahead.

“This race was heated but at the end of the day as Democrats, we both care about our justice system, and I hope Ms. Foxx is able to enact so many of the reforms that it desperately needs,” Conway said.

On the millions of dollars he poured into the race, Conway said “I think it was necessary to spend that amount to get our message out there.”

Bill Conway and his wife, Brittany, walk near his campaign office downtown Tuesday night, with his concession speech in hand, after he lost to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in the Democratic primary.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Foxx’s handling of former “Empire” actor Smollett’s case dogged her throughout the primary, with her opponents claiming she undermined public trust in the office.

Accused of making a false report to police, Smollett was indicted last year on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, but later that month the state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges, sparking outrage.

Foxx removed herself from the case about a month after Smollett initially alleged he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in late January last year.

Cook County Judge Michael Toomin lambasted Foxx’s decision to recuse herself, comparing her to a captain abandoning the ship and appointed Special Prosecutor Dan Webb to look into her office’s handling of the case and whether Smollett should be charged again.

Webb announced a new, six-count indictment last month against Smollett, vaulting the case back into the headlines a month before the primary.

Foxx’s campaign criticized the former federal prosecutor’s “James Comey-like” timing, invoking the former FBI director’s decision to announce an investigation of then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

On the campaign trail, Foxx argued her work in the office was about more than just the Smollett case and said at one point the yearlong “obsession” with the case was “bulls—.”

The race was likely the most expensive ever for the county prosecutor spot.

Since the beginning of last year, Conway raised $11.9 million — $10.5 million of it from his father William Conway Jr., the billionaire co-founder of the Carlyle Group, state records show. He spent about three times as much money as the first-term prosecutor did.

Foxx’s campaign fund raised $3.9 million since the beginning of last year, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. But that doesn’t include the millions Democratic mega donor George Soros put into a political action committee created to support Foxx.

More and Fioretti criticized the big money in the race, particularly from Conway’s father. More said Tuesday night “if I had Bill Conway’s money, this election would have looked a lot different.”

In the Republican primary for the seat, former Cook County Judge Pat O’Brien beat out former prosecutor Christopher Pfannkuche, who ran against Foxx in 2016. O’Brien had roughly 73% of the vote to Pfannkuche’s 27% with 82% of precincts reporting.

Flanked by family members, incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters at the Hotel Essex Chicago after winning in the Democratic primary Tuesday night.
Flanked by family members, incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters at the Hotel Essex Chicago after winning in the Democratic primary Tuesday night.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times