Melba Lara: Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx will not run for reelection.
Kim Foxx: At the conclusion of my term in November of 2024, I will be stepping down as State's Attorney.
Melba Lara: Foxx made that announcement today in a speech in downtown Chicago. WBEZ's Patrick Smith was there and joins us now. Patrick welcome.
Patrick Smith: Thanks for having me, Melba.
Melba Lara: So tell us about the speech. What was Foxx like as she announced that she won't be seeking reelection?
Patrick Smith: Yeah, you know, even though this was an announcement - not a resignation, obviously, because she's going to complete her term, but this is an announcement that she's not going to keep going, she was very energetic. It was honestly like almost a very happy speech. She owned the room. She gave, I know this is a cliché, but the whole "I wrote a speech, but I'm not even going to use it." That actually seemed to be true. I mean, a lot of it seemed off the cuff. One thing that really stood out to me was that she took direct aim at her critics. It was like almost the first thing she did, was she started fact checking people who have blamed her for rising rates of gun violence and said, you know, I got blamed for the increase in 2016 - I wasn't even in office then. So she fiercely defended her record as the county's top prosecutor.
Melba Lara: Now, Foxx was elected in 2016. What are some of her major accomplishments?
Patrick Smith: So, so State's Attorney Foxx talked about first, she talked about the way that she believes she has changed the thinking within the prosecutor's office. That as a Black woman who grew up in the Cabrini Green housing projects, she thinks about the people who are most impacted by the criminal justice system, which in Chicago is largely Black people, largely Black, poor, poor Black people. And so, she thought that that changed the way that we think about and a frame criminal justice issues. Then on sort of concrete things, she talked about, she has lots of exonerations - undoing wrongful convictions. She talked about that. And legislative victories. You know she was part of the push to legalize marijuana, to expunge marijuana convictions for people. And part of the push to eliminate cash bail, obviously that fight is still going on as it's before the State Supreme Court. But she touted that as an achievement for herself.
Melba Lara: Patrick, one thing that did mar her time as the county's top prosecutor was the mishandling of the case of actor Jussie Smollett. He was charged with lying to police when he made up a racist and homophobic attack on himself. Did she say anything about that case?
Patrick Smith: She said a lot about that case actually. It was interesting because in the speech, she lamented the fact that everyone else talked so much about Jussie Smollett and the way that her office handled that case. I mean, she said that she believes that her office's mishandling of the case is going to be in her obituary. And she actually said, "and that makes me mad." And she did this thing where she talked about her accomplishments, and actually had people stand up like - I helped expunge this person's record, or I got this wrongful conviction overturned, but they want to ask me about Jussie Smollett. It was like this call and response almost. And she talked about how, how that is like the main thing that people asked her about still to this day.
Kim Foxx: They asked me over and over again, State's Attorney Foxx, do you have any regrets about the Class 4 nonviolent felony against a D-list actor who committed a crime against himself?
Patrick Smith: So you can hear her there one, obviously making her case that this is just really not that important, but people kept asking about it. You can also hear the crowd was with her. They were laughing with her, they were on her side with this. But it is interesting that she lamented how much we all talked about that. And then she spent a good amount of her speech talking about it herself.
Melba Lara: So like you said, she's not resigning, she's going to fill out her term. She's just not going to run again. What happens next?
Patrick Smith: That is a really good question. I mean, there's more than a year and a half until the next election. She's going to be in office for a year and a half still. And people that I talked to today, one thing that's interesting you know, I'm talking to people who are in the criminal justice system. People who know about this, about Foxx's legacy, and what they frequently would say was, you know, we need to get this done, but we got time to do that. So they're not looking to the next election yet. They're looking to - what are we going to do in the next 18 months? Because State Attorney Foxx still has a lot of time left. That's why honestly, I'm a little surprised that she made this announcement this early.
Melba Lara: Thanks Patrick.
Patrick Smith: Thank you.
Melba Lara: I've been speaking with WBEZ criminal justice reporter Patrick Smith about the decision by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx not to run for reelection. This is WBEZ.
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