Political observers widely expect a heated slugfest in the upcoming March primary race for Cook County state’s attorney, an office that oversees about 900 attorneys who serve as the prosecution arm of the county’s criminal justice system.
At least two well-funded challengers are seeking to unseat seven-year incumbent Anita Alvarez. Former county and federal prosecutor Donna More and Kimberly Foxx, a former chief of staff to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, are expected to file their nomination papers at the end of the month.
We speak with Foxx about her campaign and her vision for the state’s attorney’s office. Below, some highlights from our discussion.
On how growing up in the Cabrini-Green housing project has shaped her views on the criminal justice system
"I grew up at 624 West Division, right on the corner of Division and Larrabee as a young girl. I remember when we'd have fireworks going off, you couldn't tell sometimes on the fourth of July whether it was fireworks or gunshots. We would sometimes have to get in our bathtub to make sure that we were shielded from danger. That experience for me, has led me to want to make sure that other children don't have to live in environments like that. So I've dedicated my career to working on criminal justice issues, dealing with children in impoverished environments."
On being homeless as a teenager
"It's very difficult for those who don't have a place to call their own; to have stability. I saw my brother at school. I still worked. In the shelter there were kids–I was a teenager, I was 16, which is a difficult time for 16-year-olds anyway–but there were also kids who were younger than me there. The notion that their parents could not provide for them, and the anguish that the parents felt ... the kids, they didn't quite get what was happening, but the anguish of the parents was something that resonates with me."
On the role Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had on her decision to run
"Having me as her chief of staff and leading her criminal justice reform efforts, she had a chance to see me work firsthand on reforming our bond court system, on working on juvenile justice reform. She got to see my work. At the point where I decided that this was something that I wanted to do, I went to her and she was supportive. She did not recruit me to run. She recruited me to be her chief of staff."
On why voters should support her instead of seven-year incumbent Anita Alvarez
"She's had the job for seven years, and the county has a reputation throughout the country of being the false-confession capital of the world. We have a torture reparations fund for victims of police brutality but no one's ever been prosecuted for it. We pay out large amounts of settlements for wrongful convictions. We don't lead in the efforts of reform. The incumbent has had seven years to make justice reform. In our reality here in Cook County, we've not done that. The citizens of Cook County deserve better."
On her experiences working with Alvarez
"She came on board in 2008, I was there from 2001 to 2013. I was a supervisor–one of her management team–for five years under her leadership. We didn't talk directly every day; I reported up as supervisor to her. I think I was optimistic when she first came on, that justice reform initiatives would be the pillar of her tenure, and I was sorely disappointed by the time I left in 2013."
Watch the video to hear our full discussion.