Webb report ensures Kim Foxx has re-election running mate — Jussie Smollett

“Aside from him coming out with an actual criminal charge against her, it’s about as devastating a report as a sitting state’s attorney can have leveled against them,” Cook County Republican Chairman Sean Morrison said.

SHARE Webb report ensures Kim Foxx has re-election running mate — Jussie Smollett
Actor Jussie Smollett, left, speaks to reporters in 2019; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, speaks at a news conference last week.

Actor Jussie Smollett, left, speaks to reporters in 2019; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, speaks at a news conference last week.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file; Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Cook County Republicans might have just been handed their best shot at recapturing an office they have not held since Bill Clinton was president.

Special Prosecutor Dan Webb’s finding of “substantial abuses of discretion” in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case virtually ensures that Democratic incumbent Kim Foxx will still be answering questions about the matter right up until the November election.

“Aside from him coming out with an actual criminal charge against her, it’s about as devastating a report as a sitting state’s attorney can have leveled against them,” Cook County Republican Chairman Sean Morrison said.

Analysis bug

Analysis

“Nobody has a crystal ball, but I have a feeling that we’re going to have one of the closest Republican versus Democrat races for state’s attorney that our county has probably seen in 25 years, and rightfully so,” said Morrison, a county commissioner from Palos Park.

Foxx is facing Republican Pat O’Brien — a former Circuit Court judge and former Democrat — in November.

Webb announced he’d concluded his investigation into Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case Monday, finding that Foxx and her office made several false and misleading statements, but also concluding that there was no evidence that would support criminal charges for the first-term prosecutor.

Webb also said in his report that he found evidence establishing “substantial abuses of discretion” in prosecuting and dismissing the initial criminal charges filed against Smollett.

Dan K. Webb, seen here in February.

Dan K. Webb, seen here in February.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times file

The report could spell more trouble down the line.

Morrison said he believes Foxx, as well as Joseph Magats, her first assistant state’s attorney, could be in trouble with the state’s Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission should Webb file his report with that body.If that agencyupholds Webb’s findings, discipline for the two attorneys could range from being reprimanded to being disbarred.

And even some members of Foxx’s own party said last week they’re not sure they can support the county’s top prosecutor for a second term.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) told Crain’s last week that they were undecided about endorsing Foxx for a second term. Reached Monday after the release of Webb’s report, Hopkins said he didn’t want to comment until the full, 60-pagereport was released.

Foxx’s office issued a statement rejecting Webb’s “characterizations of its exercises of prosecutorial discretion and private or public statements as ‘abuses of discretion’ or false statements to the public.”

“Any implication that statements made by [Foxx’s office] were deliberately inaccurate is untrue,” according to the statement.

Backers and detractors alike are torn on whether Foxx can get her reelection message heard over the noise created by the Smollett case.

Some Democrats are calling the lack of evidence for criminal charges a victory for Foxx. One source close to the Cook County Democratic Party said that while Webb’s report is “not great,” the March primary showed that Foxx could withstand a challenge.

“Look at the results in the primary — everyone thought Kim Foxx was done,” the source said. “She was under investigation, there was this cloud over her, and everyone thought that she was gonna have a real tough reelection fight in the primary, and she wins in a landslide against a well-funded opponent.”

“Sure a few people may flip their tickets and vote Republican for state’s attorney, but for the most part people are going to come in and vote a straight party ticket, and we have way more Democrats than Republicans in Cook County, so I just don’t see it making that much of an impact.”

Cook County Republican State’s Attorney candidate Pat O’Brien.

Cook County Republican State’s Attorney candidate Pat O’Brien.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

Foxx won 50.5% of the vote, a slim majority, in March despite her three Democratic opponents making the handling of the Smollett case a major issue. Primary challenger Bill Conway was bankrolled by his billionaire father, who poured millions of dollars into the race.

Former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine said that Foxx has to answer the questions raised by the report, but couldn’t say how it might effect Foxx’s chances in November.

“It’s a very unusual election process with all these things going on,” Devine said. “Everything is remote right now, so it’s difficult to place it in the context of a normal campaign ... but I think there are questions that are there and I think the media is going to point them out.... What impact it will have in these unusual circumstances is really very difficult to say right now, but it’s an issue, and it’s going to remain an issue. It’s not going to go away, I don’t think.”

Devine beat incumbent Jack O’Malley in 1996, the last Republican to hold the job.

Jacob Kaplan, the executive director of the county’s Democratic Party, said Foxx is still in “a great position for victory” in the general election and “the party remains steadfast in its support” of Foxx and is “working hard to ensure she’s victoriousin November.”

At a Monday afternoon news conference, Foxx’s Republican opponent called Webb’s report “damning,” saying Foxx has “failed us all.”

“I’m going to win and as for the people who say [this report] will have no effect, maybe they should look in the mirror,” O’Brien said. “We can’t let this situation go unresolved.”

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