Bill Conway is wading into the race to unseat Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in next year’s primary.
The former assistant state’s attorney’s Thursday announcement makes him Foxx’s first official Democratic opponent, though others, like former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, have also said they’re eyeing bids to unseat the embattled state’s attorney.
Former Cook County Judge Pat O’Brien has decided to run against Foxx as a Republican. He filed paperwork with the state’s election board to form a campaign fundraising committee last month.
Conway said he decided to launch a bid against Foxx because he believes the office needs a change and he’s “seen how important it is to have an honest and fair state’s attorney’s office.”
“What we’re doing in Cook County isn’t working,” Conway said. “We need real criminal justice reform, we need to stop the flow of illegal weapons, and we need to get politics out of the state’s attorney’s office.”
The first-term Foxx, Conway said, has brought politics into the office and into decision making on cases and has “done nothing new” to address gun violence in the city.
Conway said the case of Jussie Smollett is one place to start, but once the onion is peeled back, you see the “political calculations involved in that process, and it’s scary to think about the politics calculations that went into” other cases the office handles.
Foxx has been dogged by criticism for months for her handling of the Smollett case. Initially, the state’s attorney recused herself from the case about a month after Smollett alleged he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in late January.
At the time, a spokesman for Foxx cited conversations she’d had with one of Smollett’s relatives about the incident as the reason for her recusal.
Accused of making a false report to police, Smollett was indicted in March on 16 counts of disorderly conduct. Weeks later, the state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges, sparking outrage and confusion.
Conway, a Navy intel officer, served under two former state’s attorneys, Richard Devine and Anita Alvarez, working mostly in the financial crimes and special prosecutions section where he went after government officials and employees for misconduct.
In the Navy, Conway has worked on cutting off the flow of illegal weapons to the Taliban. He said he’d use some of those same tactics to address the city’s gun violence if elected.
Foxx supporter Larry Rogers Jr.said in a statement that while Conway’s military service should be commended “the focus of his campaign video on military approaches to criminal justice is frightening.”
“Kim Foxx has prioritized the prosecution of violent crime, particularly gun offenders who plague our communities, while leading the way on bail reform for nonviolent offenders and reversing wrongful convictions,” Rogers’ statement read. “She deserves our support in her efforts to continue to implement these strong policies and innovative reforms for another term.”
Conway is the son of William E. Conway Jr., the billionaire co-founder of The Carlyle Group, which is one of the world’s largest private equity firms.
Conway said he plans to dedicate significant resources to the race to make sure his campaign has “the resources needed to compete in this race.”
“I think our message of change is going to resonate with voters just as it did with [Mayor Lori] Lightfoot, and I can bring that to the state’s attorney’s office as a change agent,” Conway said. “I can bring a new perspective to how we can get after these problems while also having real targeted criminal justice reform for non-violent criminal offenders as well.”