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Open seat for Chicago-area prosecutor is in voters’ hands after spirited primary matchup

CHICAGO (AP) — An open race to lead the nation’s second-largest prosecutor’s office is in voters’ hands after a heated primary campaign in the Chicago area.

The Democratic matchup for the Cook County state’s attorney primary features Eileen O’Neill Burke, a former appellate judge with a large campaign war chest, versus Clayton Harris III, a professor and attorney who’s held government posts. The winner of the primary in the Democratic stronghold is expected to win outright in November.

The race is open because Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx didn’t seek a third term. She was among several progressive prosecutors elected in the past decade in major U.S. cities including Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Many have been criticized as being soft on crime, but in Chicago, both Democratic candidates have been more careful of their critique of Foxx, saying that they’ll continue her approach on some issues.

Harris says penalties for crimes should take racial disparities and communities into account. He often talks about his personal experiences as a Black man raising children in Washington Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. He says the office needs to beef up its special prosecutions unit and improve communication with police.

“We hear gunshots sometimes, and nobody wants to live like that,” he said. “I understand how safety and justice affect our communities.”

O’Neill Burke says harsher punishments should be in place, particularly for those who contribute to the flow of illegal guns.

“Our justice system is not working right now, but I don’t think anyone living in Chicago living right now would disagree,” she said.

She’s called for more attorney training and a unit to protect abortion rights, while continuing Foxx’s restorative justice efforts. Harris has said he’ll continue Foxx’s controversial policy not to prosecute retail theft as a felony unless the value of the stolen goods is over $1,000. State law sets a $300 felony threshold.

When it comes to fundraising, O’Neill Burke is ahead with roughly double the amount of Harris, just under $2 million compared to roughly $750,000. Her sum includes money from top Republican donors.

But Harris has picked up hefty endorsements from labor unions, progressive leaders and the Cook County Democratic Party.

The state’s attorney’s office has more than 700 attorneys and is the country’s largest after Los Angeles.

Also running are Republican former Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who lost a 2020 bid for the office, and Libertarian Andrew Charles Kopinski.

Sophia Tareen, The Associated Press


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