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Attack ad, poll shift, six-figure donations bring heated Foxx-O’Brien state’s attorney battle to a boil

The incumbent prosecutor’s ad argues that O’Brien is “pure Trump” and wrong for Cook County. But Republicans say O’Brien’s rise in the polls shows voters are deciding what’s wrong for voters are “the disastrous policies of Kim Foxx.”

Republican state’s attorney candidate Pat O’Brien, left, earlier this month; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, in August.
Republican state’s attorney candidate Pat O’Brien, left, speaks during a news conference in the North Austin neighborhood earlier this month; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, speaks at a news conference in August.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is going on offense, ramping up her attacks on her Republican challenger’s record in a new ad to begin airing Tuesday — just as a new GOP poll shows the Democratic incumbent losing ground.

As the heated campaign enters the home stretch, the new ad attacking former Cook County Judge Pat O’Brien’s record as a prosecutor is scheduled to run on TV and streaming platforms just two weeks before the final votes are cast.

And Foxx also on Monday reported a major fundraising boost of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, the lion’s share from a couple of top Democratic donors. The infusion helps Foxx level the playing field with O’Brien, who had been outraising the Democrat as of last week.

The incumbent prosecutor’s ad argues that O’Brien is “pure Trump” and wrong for Cook County. But Republicans say O’Brien’s rise in the polls shows voters are deciding what’s wrong for voters are “the disastrous policies of Kim Foxx.”

Foxx’s 30-second ad spot describes O’Brien and President Donald Trump as one in the same — “angry” Republicans who want to “‘lock em up’ regardless of evidence.”

“O’Brien oversaw nearly 30 wrongful convictions as a prosecutor, including personally putting away four innocent black teenagers who, together, spent 47 years behind bars, helping make Chicago the false confession capitol,” A female voice says over images of O’Brien speaking.

“His angry rhetoric? Pure Trump. His record as a prosecutor? Even worse. Pat O’Brien’s wrong for state’s attorney.”

Still image from Foxx campaign ad.
Still image from Foxx campaign ad.
Screen grab.

A spokeswoman for Foxx said that it’s important voters know that O’Brien “is a Trump Republican who believes in the old ways of ‘law and order’ — locking people up without proper evidence.”

“These policies of the past have proven to not make our communities any safer and ruin the lives of innocent individuals,” Alex Sims, a spokeswoman for Foxx’s campaign, said in a statement. “When Cook County voters see this, the choice is clear.”

Foxx has gone after O’Brien previously for his role as prosecutor in the case against four young men for the 1986 murder of medical student Lori Roscetti. The four were later cleared on the basis of DNA evidence.

The former judge has said he agrees the “criminal justice system failed those four men,” but he defended his decisions, given the evidence available at the time, which included “two court reported confessions” and “third party admissions” the men allegedly made to others.

“One of the four actually testified that in the final trial, that they had committed the offense,” O’Brien said during a joint appearance last month.

Calvin Ollins, right, is congratulated by Omar Saunders, left, and Larry Ollins, center, as Calvin is released from the Joliet Correctional center in Joliet in 2001.
Calvin Ollins, right, is congratulated by Omar Saunders, left, and Larry Ollins, center, as Calvin is released from prison in 2001, after DNA tests proved there was no evidence linking the three in the rape and murder of medical student Lori Roscetti in 1986.
M. Spencer Green/AP file

O’Brien spokesman Brad Goodman said “the only person in this campaign who participates in smears is Kim Foxx in an attempt to deceive voters from her record of failure.”

“Under Kim Foxx, violent crimes are up, and convictions for violent crimes are down,” Goodman said in a statement. “Voters are looking forward to the future, not a 32-year-old case, overturned by DNA testing that wasn’t even available at the time. Foxx’s only move is to politicize this case. Unlike Kim Foxx, Pat will be a prosecutor that Cook County residents will be proud of, not a state’s attorney who engages in lies and deception.”

Republicans argue that voters are already making up their minds, pointing to a poll commissioned by the Cook County Republican Party.

Foxx was leading O’Brien, 47.1% to 40.6% with 9.8% still undecided in the poll. The countywide survey of 473 likely voters was conducted Sunday. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.69 percentage points.

Republican candidate for Cook County state’s attorney Patrick W. ‘Pat’ O’Brien, left; Cook County Republican Chairman Sean M. Morrison, right.
Republican candidate for Cook County state’s attorney Patrick W. ‘Pat’ O’Brien, left; Cook County Republican Chairman Sean M. Morrison, right.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

“Law-abiding residents from across Cook County have had enough of the rioting, looting, violent crime, murdered children and general lawlessness that has raged on across the city of Chicago and Cook County under the disastrous policies of Kim Foxx,” Cook County GOP Chairman Sean Morrison wrote in a Facebook post.

Sims said in a statement “these numbers from the GOP poll are from an electorate that doesn’t know about [O’Brien’s] record. That doesn’t fit with reality.”

Fundraising numbers did work in Foxx’s favor on Monday.

Foxx reported an infusion of $249,600, including $100,000 contributions from both Fred Eychaner, owner of Newsweb Corp., and GCM Grosvenor chairman and CEO Michael Sacks.

Sacks is an investor in Sun-Times Media.

Before the flurry of donations, Foxx was facing the risk of being outspent nearly two-to-one by her Republican rival. She also faces Libertarian candidate Brian Dennehy.

Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Brian Dennehy-Libertarian participates in an online endorsement interview with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Brian Dennehy-Libertarian participates in an online endorsement interview with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Filings available late last week showed Foxx with roughly $216,590.45 to spend and O’Brien with $427,326.62.

The former judge notified the Illinois State Board of Elections Wednesday that the contributions he’d made to his own campaign had reached $101,075.91.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters after winning the March primary.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times

That lifted the limits on the size of contributions any of the candidates in the race can accept.

“Pat O’Brien breaking the caps at this stage is something we anticipated and we’re ready to communicate the stark difference between him and the state’s attorney,” Sims said last week.