News & Politics

Smollett Case Roils the Race for Cook County State's Attorney

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

Cook County voters go to the polls on Tuesday to vote for local candidates in the Democratic primary. Ordinarily, there would be little interest in most of those races. But one race has attracted more media attention and more campaign cash than any other: the race for state’s attorney.

Three major candidates have emerged to challenge the incumbent, Kim Foxx. It was Foxx’s office that ended up dismissing fake hate crime charges against actor Jussie Smollett, who staged an assault with the help of two friends, claiming the attackers wore MAGA hats.

Even for Chicago politics, the case reeked of influence peddling and special treatment. The questions led to the appointment of a special prosecutor who reinstated the charges against Smollett and issued a report condemning the actions of Fox in the case.

The Smollett case hasn’t been Foxx’s only controversy. Chicago police were livid at the dismissal of charges, but it was only a capper to years of complaints against her “catch-and-release” policies, which included bail reforms allowing some criminals to go free without posting bond.

One of Foxx’s challengers, Bill Conway, has spent $12 million to unseat her. A recent ad plays back a quote from a radio interview where Foxx dismisses criticism of the Smollett case as “B.S.”

Chicago Tribune:

“The issue with Smollett is bull—-,” Foxx says in the ad. The commercial repeats her saying that line twice and poses the question in text: “If Foxx doesn’t understand what she did wrong, what will stop her from doing it again?”

The quotes from the radio interview are damning.

“The reputation of the city of Chicago wasn’t marred by Jussie Smollett,” Foxx says in the ad, as her image is plastered to the screen. Then the commercial features a mashup of news reports from when the high-profile, nationally watched case was unfolding.

If anything, the case solidified the city’s “reputation” in the eyes of the world as a cesspool of corruption. Conway is looking to capitalize on that. But as a rich white guy whose father has financed almost all of his campaign, he’s finding it hard to get much traction.

Associated Press:

Defeating Foxx will be tough with her establishment backing, union support and super PACs targeting her opponents. But challengers — including Navy veteran Bill Conway, whose first run for office is being fueled by his billionaire father — believe they’ve found an opening for Tuesday.

“She just kept not telling the truth to the public,” said Conway, 41, a former assistant state’s attorney.

He’s aired television ads since November, with far more money combined than all candidates — including two Republicans. About $10.5 million of the roughly $11.5 million he’s raised, comes from William Conway, co-founder of Carlyle Group, a Washington D.C.-based investment firm. Foxx, 47, has raised nearly $3.5 million.

The latest poll has Foxx ahead with 37.5 percent to Conway’s 19.5 percent. But more than 37 percent of voters are undecided. Still, with the political machine behind her, Foxx is extremely unlikely to lose.