March 20, 2024

Harris III Concedes in Tight Cook County State’s Attorney Race

By Delaney Disario

Harris photoClayton Harris III came out to speak at his election night party at Taste 222

Clayton Harris III went home Tuesday night after the Cook County State’s Attorney race in the Illinois Primary not knowing if he lost … or won.

But 10 days later, he finally conceded the race to former appellate court judge Eileen O’Neill Burke, who declared victory after the last of the mail-in votes were counted Friday night. Harris III’s campaign team said it will not ask for a recount.

When the Illinois Primary Election Night ended on March 19, O’Neill Burke held the lead with 51% of the vote, leading Harris III by only two percentage points, a difference of less than 10,000 votes. That deficit dwindled to 1,556 votes as mail-in ballots were still being counted on Friday, March 29. The victory sends O’Neill Burke to the November general election against Republican nominee Bob Fioretti, who ran unopposed.

The delay in results is due to the estimated 109,000 vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be returned and counted, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. At the time, O’Neill Burke and Harris have said the race is “too early to tell.”

Harris was met with chants and cheers from supporters, friends, and family as he addressed the crowd. 

“We’ve waited a long time for this day to come, and it looks like we’re going to have to wait just a little bit longer,” Harris said.

Election day started slowly citywide, with Chicago seeing some of the lowest voter turnout since the 2012 primary election. Max Bever, director of public information for the Chicago Board of Elections, called the turnout “shockingly low.”

Election judges at Fosco Park in Near West Side had seen only 17 voters by 11:45 a.m., just over 1% of the 1,569 registered voters designated to that polling location. 

UIC’s Student Center East held an early voting location where citizens across Chicago could vote from March 4 until election day. Voters said they preferred this option to their designated polling places because it was convenient and allowed for same-day voter registration.

“Now, you can vote any place! Today’s Election Day, and I didn’t need to go to a polling place near my home,” said Natalie Henry, an\ UIC employee.  “How much better can it get?”

Despite low turnout across, there was no shortage of turnout for Harris’ election night party at Taste 222 in West Loop. Supporters of Harris had to wait a while before seeing the candidate, as he took the stage shortly after 10 p.m. Harris came on to speak after a speech from O’Neill Burke, where she said it was still too early to claim victory.

Throughout the night, the mood at the party remained positive and hopeful. The crowd was met with a diverse group of supporters, from long-time friends to University of Chicago students. Katie Hacker and Ana Emilia Davalos learned about Harris’ campaign because he’s a lecturer at their university and found they shared many similar values with the candidate. 

“I think for me, a huge issue right now is access to abortion. Especially being in Illinois, we’re a safe haven for so many different states, and Clayton Harris really supports that and is looking to ensure that right for all people in Illinois,” Hacker said.

“The awareness he’s brought to police brutality and how much of a problem it is, both in Chicago and the United States, is really interesting. I’d be really excited to see what proposals end up being implemented, hopefully, if elected,” said Davalos. The two are not voters in Cook County, meaning they couldn’t vote for Harris, but they still came out to show their support.

“He’s the most vocal person about it recently that I’ve heard. He teaches a class on it; this man knows what he’s talking about.” 

Even as votes came in, and with low voter turnout, the mood remained hopeful. Many in the crowd believed the low voter turnout could harm the campaign, but were holding on to the 109,000 ballots still outstanding.

“There are still more votes outstanding and not counted yet than in the margin. That always means that every vote deserves to be counted, and then we’ll see where we stand after that’s been done,” said Warren Silver. 

As Harris came out to speak, his supporters were excited to finally hear from the candidate on election night. He referenced his campaign, ensuring voters that he would not be giving up until every vote was counted. 

“We will make sure that every voice is counted and every voice is heard,” he said.

Supporters in the crowd cheered throughout his speech, believing the outstanding mail-in ballots could still turn the vote around. Harris took time to thank the crowd and prove he would not concede anytime soon.

“I thank all of my brothers and sisters, every single community,” he said. “All faiths, all walks, because this is what this campaign is about and what this campaign will continue to focus on.”

Harris thanked his family, friends, and the entirety of Cook County at the end of the night. He noted that it was getting late and that his sons needed to go to bed but that everyone was welcome to continue celebrating for a little longer. 

“Regardless of who wins tomorrow, our fight for safety and justice does not end.” 

As the candidate left, the party slowed down almost immediately. Harris took pictures with supporters and shook hands with friends as they left the party, 

Uncertainty filled the air at the end of the night, with no win to celebrate or loss to accept. Supporters were still hopeful and believed in the cause, but they were unsure how the outstanding ballots would affect the difference between Harris and O’Neill Burke.

Former Alderman and Republican Bob Fioretti who ran unopposed on Tuesday, will meet whoever wins the Democratic vote in November’s general election, along with Libertarian candidate Andrew Charles Kopinski.

Harris supporters photo

Supporters of Clayton Harris III nervously checked election results throughout
the night, hoping to see their candidate in the lead. (Photo/Delaney Disario)

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