Spotlight Politics: Will Smollett Saga Sway State’s Attorney’s Race?

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is back in the headlines as the state’s attorney whose office cleared him of charges announces she’s running for re-election. Our politics team of Amanda Vinicky and Carol Marin explains in this week’s Spotlight Politics.

Even as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx tries to move on from the Jussie Smollett scandal that could put a wrinkle in her plans for a second term, the former “Empire” actor is back in the headlines.

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The very day Foxx put out a digital ad announcing her re-election, Smollett filed a counter-lawsuit claiming he’d been “maliciously” prosecuted.

In her campaign ad Tuesday, Foxx addressed her office’s dismissal of charges against Smollett for allegedly filing a false police report that spurred an expensive, all-police-on-deck investigation, saying in the video: “Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that. I’m making changes in my office to make sure we do better. That’s what reform is about.”

A Foxx spokesman says it’s up to voters whether the 2020 race for state’s attorney should focus on Smollett or on “continuing criminal justice reform.”

But Foxx has got a well-funded opponent in former prosecutor Bill Conway, son of a billionaire, who is already spending what his campaign describes as a “significant buy” of campaign advertisements that claim Foxx’s criminal justice reforms have been too lenient on gun offenders.

Meanwhile, even with the general election a year out, there’s turnover in Springfield.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who presides over a historic supermajority caucus of 40 Senate Democrats, last week surprised them all by announcing he’ll retire in January. The news has a handful of Democratic senators angling for the internal votes to replace him, even as at least three of their ranks are, in some fashion, in the FBI’s net. (One senator is fighting embezzlement charges, another’s office was raided in what appears to be a widespread federal corruption probe, and a third wore a wire in a case that ended up snaring a sitting member of the Illinois House.)

That member, state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, has since resigned, and locally elected Democratic committeemen on Friday voted to appoint People’s Gas executive Eva-Dina Delgado, to take his seat.

Arroyo wasn’t present for the vote, but Delgado was in a sense elected with his help: Arroyo, the committeeman with the largest weighted vote, had allotted his share to Chicago Ald. Ariel Reboyras, to vote as his proxy.

While Delgado’s taken the oath of office, it’s unclear whether she’ll actually ever be seated in the Illinois House.

Speaker Michael Madigan, who also heads the Democratic Party of Illinois, issued a statement saying, “any process that includes the participation of the 36th Ward – whether by direct vote or by proxy – would call the legitimacy of the appointment into question, and the qualifications of their candidate would be challenged by the full Illinois House of Representatives.”

Follow us on Twitter: @wttw | @paschutz@AmandaVinicky @CarolMarin

Related stories:

Smollett Says He Was Maliciously Prosecuted in Counterclaim Against City

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx Will Seek Re-Election in 2020

Race to Replace: Who Will Be the Next Illinois Senate President?

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