CHICAGO (WLS) -- Kim Foxx will not seek reelection in 2024 after serving two terms as Cook County state's attorney.
She made the big announcement at the City Club of Chicago Tuesday afternoon, saying, "I leave now with my head held high and my heart full, knowing that better days are ahead."
It was an emotional day, as Foxx greeted supporters before speaking.
Foxx, who came with a prepared speech did not use it.
She also spoke one-on-one with ABC7 Chicago in her only sit-down television interview on her decision and legacy in office.
Foxx told Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson of her decision on Monday, and called him "the man of the moment," whose election reminds her of her own first win in 2016.
Foxx became the first African American woman to helm the country's second-largest prosecutor's office in 2016.
Since then, several progressive prosecutors have been elected in major cities across the country.
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"When I came into office, we were known as the false confession capital of the United States," Foxx said. "It is in the interest of public safety that we exercise criminal justice reform. They are inextricably linked. And for anybody who says we have to choose one or the other, that's why I think we will continue to see violence in communities that lack trust in our system. I will not be on next year's ballot, by my choice, I do this decision, I didn't take it lightly."
She has been hailed by progressives for her work on bail and criminal justice reforms. But she's also faced criticism being too soft on criminals and for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case.
After not charging Smollett with writing a false report to Chicago police officers, the case ended up in the hands of a special prosecutor, who said her office made "operational mistakes" when it dropped the charges.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot publicly criticized Foxx for her decision not to charge five men who police linked to a deadly shootout in the Austin neighborhood back in 2021.
Foxx defended her decision, saying there wasn't enough evidence.
WATCH: Kim Foxx announces she will not run for reelection
"She's been under fire since almost since she first took office, particularly around the way she's handled some prosecution, some investigations. Remember Jussie Smollett, for example, R Kelly. You know, let's face it, she's had a lot of turnover in office, too. There are a lot of people unhappy with her. So, if she were to run for reelection, it would be a real uphill climb," ABC7 Chicago political analyst Laura Washington said.
During her spirited speech Tuesday, she addressed criticism that she has been too soft on criminals, saying violent crime decreased her first three years in office.
"I refute the supposition that where we find ourselves today with the rise in violent crime that coincides with the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is somehow the result of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office," Foxx said.
She also addressed her handling of the Smollett case, saying, "the special prosecutor in that case had a mission to determine whether or not I had done wrongdoing, and found that I had not."
Foxx acknowledged five individuals in the audience that her office had helped as a way to go after those who criticized her handling of the Smollett case. Foxx seemed to look at the media in the back of the room, as she repeatedly said, "But you want to ask me about Jussie."
Foxx said the pandemic was also a leading factor in the resignation of multiple assistant state's attorneys, challenging a statement from former ASA James Murphy that there's low morale in the office.
"I talked to his colleagues, who are so proud of the work that we do here, are so proud of the comradery we have here, who felt that his comments sullied not me but them," she said.
Foxx said she's proud that her office has led the country in the overturning of wrongful convictions five out of the last six years.
RELATED | Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx defends office, blames departures on COVID-19 pandemic
Former House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who was in the audience, was one of the targets of Foxx's criticism.
"Her legacy is not going to be very good, it is going to be one in which, from my perspective, that the rights of defendants were placed above victims," Durkin said.
A native of Chicago's Cabrini Green housing project, Foxx graduated from Lincoln Park High School and earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University. She is married and has four daughters.
She has said, during her time in office, she has been fighting every day to reform the criminal justice system to make it fairer and safer.
Her platform has been based on prosecuting violent crimes, not low-level offenses, and righting the wrongs of the war on drugs.
Foxx said she came into office with a mandate, and viewed her job as a minister of justice.
Foxx has not yet revealed what she plans to do next, but said her priority is spending more time with her family.
With Foxx not seeking a third term, others are eyeing a run to replace her.
WATCH: Kim Foxx's full fiery speech
Richard Boykin, who is a former member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, told ABC7 Chicago he is considering a run, but is waiting for Foxx to make her announcement.
Former City Inspector General Joe Ferguson's name has also been circulating. He said Tuesday should be for everyone to hear from Foxx first, and there is plenty of time to talk about what follows.
While this announcement comes as a surprise, there had been talks in Democratic circles for the last year that Foxx would not run again, and her virtually non-existent fundraising efforts during that time would seem to bear that out.
In a statement, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said, "Kim Foxx made history as the first Black woman elected as Cook County state's attorney, and has been instrumental in working to reform the Conviction Bond Office, which has resulted in overturning nearly 200 wrongful convictions, expunging more than 15,000 cannabis crimes, and bringing equity to a criminal justice system that has long disenfranchised people and communities of color. She has led her office with dignity and civility, and as a colleague at the county level, I am grateful for the work that she has accomplished in her two terms. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors."
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said, "I have known Kim Foxx for years and I am incredibly proud of the impact she has had on our criminal justice system. She is a State's Attorney elected with broad grassroots support. She has worked to prosecute the right people for the right crimes, restore public trust by addressing racial discrimination and wrongful convictions, and serve the interests of victims of domestic violence. As she embarks on her final year in office, I know she will continue to be a voice for underserved communities and champion of justice."
Lightfoot tweeted, "The role of Cook County State's Attorney is critical to ensuring the safety of our City. It is a tremendous responsibility and oftentimes a challenging one. I commend and thank Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx for stepping up and serving our City and County through a particularly tough moment in history. I know what it's like being a Black woman in leadership and constantly being judged and evaluated through a different set of standards. I wish SA Foxx and her family the best as she embarks on a new chapter."
The Illinois Republican Party also released a statement, saying, "It's clear that Kim Foxx sees the writing on the wall and is not seeking re-election because she failed in every aspect as State's Attorney. Cook County residents are sick and tired of watching her abdicate her basic responsibility to simply enforce the laws on the books and keep violent criminals off the streets," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy. "There's one thing that Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters can all agree on - her last day can't come soon enough."
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