Cook County state's attorney candidates face off in forum

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Thursday, January 11, 2024
Cook County state's attorney candidates face off in forum
Cook County state's attorney candidates, including Clayton Harris and Eileen O'Neill Burke, faced off Thursday in a forum, with Kim Foxx not running.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx prepares to leave office, some of the candidates vying to take her seat answered new questions Thursday.

The race to become the state's attorney of the nation's second-largest prosecutors' office is shaping up between Democrats Clayton Harris and Eileen O'Neill Burke.

"We have people in business leaving every day because of crime; make no mistake about it, the economic viability of Chicago is on the ballot this year," O'Neill Burke said.

Recent smash-and-grabs targeting downtown and Gold Coast businesses were part of the crime conversation at the Cook County state's attorney forum held Thursday at the Union League Club.

"No. 1, tackle these smash-and-grabs by adding a 10th division in our special prosecutors unit that focuses on crime, guns, carjacking and retail theft," Harris said.

And when it comes to retail thefts, O'Neill Burke said she plans to change a policy put in place by Foxx, who is not running for reelection.

Foxx does not prosecute retail thefts below $1,000.

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"The law currently states it is $300; I will enforce the law as it currently states, but that does not mean that every single person arrested for retail theft goes to jail," O'Neill Burke said.

O'Neill Burke is a former Cook County prosecutor, defense attorney and, most recently, an appellate court judge.

Harris, who has the backing of Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Democratic Party, is a public policy professor whose resume also includes being a prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

Rebuilding the relationship between prosecutors and police will be a priority for candidates.

"We have to work together, but we have to hold them accountable; we can do both at the same time," Harris said.

"I want to take brand new cadets out of the academy, and I want to put them in a one-week class with brand new state's attorneys," O'Neill Burke said.

O'Neill Burke also promises to boost morale and staffing levels in the state's attorney's office.

Both candidates say the office is woefully understaffed.

The forum also included libertarian candidate Andrew Charles Kopinski, and the only Republican candidate in the race, Bob Fioretti, chose not to participate.