March 1, 2024

Cook County State’s Attorney Race: 2 Top Candidates Emerge

By Manny Meraz

Eileen O'Neill Burke photo

Eileen O’Neill Burke is one of two front-runners for the Cook County State’s Attorney race. (Campaign photo)

Kim Foxx has been the Cook County State’s Attorney since 2016, and her tenure has been marked by controversy surrounding criminal reforms and the bail system. And in 2023, she decided to not run for reelection.

As Foxx’s time in office comes to a close, the March 19 primary features a showdown between Clayton Harris III, a former prosecutor and current University of Chicago lecturer, and Eileen O’Neill Burke, a former prosecutor and defense attorney with over 30 years of experience. Former Ald. Robert W. Fioretti, a civil rights lawyer, is the sole Republican nominee, and Andrew Charles Kopinski is the Libertarian candidate.

O’Neill Burke, in addition to her extensive experience as a defense attorney, also brings a decade of service as an assistant state’s attorney. She believes that her comprehensive background is precisely what Cook County requires during uncertain times. If elected as state’s attorney, O’Neill Burke aims to tackle crime using a more traditional approach, which she feels will address the challenges many attribute to Foxx’s tenure. While many like O’Neill Burke’s approach, some say she attracts more conservative voters in a liberal county.

Candidate bios: State’s attorney | 7th District US House

O’Neill Burke has raised close to $1.9 million  in her run for State’s Attorney (including an additional $800,000 shortly after this article was published), with many of her biggest donors coming from small Chicago companies like Core Spaces, and the majority of donors being law firms like Cooney and Conway and more all donating over $13,000 individually. 

Clayton Harris III photo

Harris III (photo, right) also boasts significant experience as an assistant state attorney, similar to his opponent, O’Neill Burke. He shares a parallel goal with his challenger in aiming to decrease crime in the city. However, Harris III pledges to uphold certain policies implemented by Foxx, such as retaining the classification of retail theft as a non-felony crime if the value is under $1,000. While some view him as a strong candidate for the role, others express concerns that his approach may closely resemble the work of Foxx.

Harris lll has had over $600,000 donated to his campaign with his biggest donors coming from Unions all around Cook County. His biggest supporters come from SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana PAC, SEIU Illinois Council PAC, and Local 705 Teamsters Political Action Committee B all contributing over $20,000 individually. 

Fioretti is the Republican nominee who is running unopposed for Cook County State’s Attorney, He previously served as alderman in the second ward of Chicago. He has had unsuccessful attempts at higher offices like State’s Attorney and Mayor for Chicago, but Fioretti also has a successful career as a lawyer and a notable record of advocating for people of color. If elected, his strategy includes reversing Foxx’s policies and prioritizing the crackdown on theft and illegal gun possession.

Fioretti has only raised $51,000 being the lowest amount raised among the other candidates and his biggest donors have been from other law firms, including his own and also the likes of Disparti Law Group and Amirante Law Offices all contributing over $10,000. 

Google Trends

Google Trends for the three candidates

Spring is kicking off with the Cook County State’s Attorney race on March 19, featuring Democrates Clayton Harris lll, Eileen O’Neill Burke and Republican Bob Fioretti, who is running unopposed.

Political pundits view the race as a toss-up between Harris lll and O’Neil Burke for the Democratic nomination. 

According to an analysis of Google search data, Harris III has seen the biggest surge in searches over the past 30 days.

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