Democrat Kim Foxx on Tuesday declared victory over her Republican opponent in the race for Cook County state’s attorney after promising to “fix” an office widely criticized for waiting 13 months to bring charges against the Chicago police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
According to the Associated Press, Foxx had 71 percent of the vote with 92 percent of precincts reporting.
“Our work is just beginning," Foxx said at a campaign celebration at Moe's Cantina in the Chicago’s River North area. "This election is the start of a journey to fix a (criminal justice) system that needs repair.”
Foxx’s speech at the Mexican-themed night spot was awkward. Her crushing victory had been expected for eight months, but the venue doubled as the gathering spot for Hillary Clinton’s local backers. It was packed with hundreds of Clinton loyalists preoccupied with worrisome presidential results flashing down from flat screens seemingly everywhere.
Foxx, 44, won the primary in March over two-term incumbent Anita Alvarez with powerful support from County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, her former boss, who had convinced Democratic leaders to endorse her as the party’s preferred candidate, a selection process Alvarez called “rigged.”
Foxx also brandished a reform message that resonated with voters wary of mass incarceration and an alleged lack of police accountability.
“I know we have it in us to be a model for justice, fairness and reform for every kid in every neighborhood in this county ... The gulf between communities and law enforcement -- and the violence that intercedes in the vacuum -- means that we must be urgent in our work," Foxx said at the Tuesday night party.
During the campaign, Foxx said her rise from a childhood in the Cabrini-Green public-housing complex gave her an inside view of community mistrust in the county’s justice system.
Foxx eventually worked 12 years as an assistant state’s attorney, handling child-protection cases and prosecuting juvenile offenders. Later she took a job in Preckwinkle’s office, eventually becoming her chief of staff.
Pfannkuche, 61, served as a county prosecutor for 31 years before entering private practice in 2011. But he failed to convince enough voters that the experience made him better equipped than Foxx to take on this year’s violent-crime surge in Chicago or crimes committed by the city’s cops.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and other big Republican campaign donors largely left Pfannkuche to fend for himself against Foxx. Pfannkuche trailed far behind her in fundraising and failed to capitalize on instances of questionable judgment by the Democrat during her campaign.
Among those instances, Foxx worked as a consultant for Power Rogers & Smith, a personal-injury law firm that often sues the county. She claimed there would be no conflict of interest if she became state’s attorney.
Foxx’s reformer credentials also seemed to clash with an August campaign fundraiser in the home of powerful Chicago Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. The alderman, a one-time Chicago police officer, had recently introduced a proposed ordinance to categorize offenses against cops or other first responders as hate crimes. Before the primary, the alderman had also been a major supporter of Alvarez.
Alvarez is finishing her second four-year term with political bruises. She faced strong criticism for her handling of David Koschman’s death, the result of a punch by a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Alvarez came under more fire for allegedly bungling high-profile prosecutions of Chicago cops, including Det. Dante Servin, acquitted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed African American woman, and Lt. Glenn Evans, acquitted of aggravated battery and official misconduct.
The criticism escalated to calls for her resignation after a judge last November ordered Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to release a dashboard-camera video showing the McDonald shooting. Alvarez waited until the video’s release to bring charges against Jason Van Dyke, the officer who fired the shots.
During the campaign, Foxx said she would hire special prosecutors for shootings by police officers.
As state’s attorney, Foxx will be the top prosecutor in the nation’s second most-populous county. Supervising nearly 900 attorneys, she will also serve as legal counsel for the county’s government. Under Illinois law, she will take office December 1.