Chicago mayoral race: Lightfoot, Preckwinkle comment on Smollett case after debate

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle faced off again Tuesday during a debate at FOX32.

The day's major news story, prosecutors' decision to drop charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, raised a lot of questions for both candidates.

"There's so much we don't know," Lightfoot said. "I would urge the state's attorney's office to give a fulsome discussion as to why they dropped these charges."

"I don't frankly know the particulars," Preckwinkle said. "I'm not a lawyer and I'm not the state's attorney. So I look forward to the explanation from the state's attorney about why this decision was made."

Joe Magats, the first assistant state's attorney, took over the case when his boss, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the probe after it surfaced that she had been in touch with Smollett's family.

RELATED: Jussie Smollett update: Texts shed light on why State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself

Magats said the decision to drop the charges did not exonerate Smollett, but that his office determined the decision was made in the best interest of justice.

Preckwinkle was asked about how Tuesday's developments might impact hers or Foxx's political prospects, as Foxx previously served as Preckwinkle's chief of staff.

"I'm not gonna speculate on how this decision is gonna impact anybody's political careers," she said. "The state's attorney, I'm sure, will have further comments and I look forward to those further comments."

Lightfoot said Mayor Emanuel's characterization of the decision as a "whitewash of justice" was unfair, but she was troubled by the decision to seal criminal records related to the case.

"The state's attorney, First Deputy Magats, has to come forward and provide a much more fulsome explanation so that people have confidence that there isn't anything untoward that happened. That they were really calling balls and strikes," Lightfoot said. "And if there's an issue with the evidence, put it out there and talk about it."

Tuesday's debate saw Preckwinkle rebuke the comments of Congressman Bobby Rush for the first time. Rush said over the weekend that voters who supported Lightfoot would have blood on their hands.

"Congressman Rush speaks for himself. Clearly not the language I would use, but Congressman Rush speaks for himself," Preckwinkle said.

Lightfoot criticized Preckwinkle's response as being too mild.

"You cannot be the leader for the entire city when you will not confront people who say things that are intended to divide us and not bring us together."
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