Police Union President Backs O’Neill Burke for Cook County State’s Attorney in Democratic Primary

Eileen O’Neill Burke and Clayton Harris III are running for the Democratic nomination in the race for Cook County state’s attorney. (Photos provided)Eileen O’Neill Burke and Clayton Harris III are running for the Democratic nomination in the race for Cook County state’s attorney. (Photos provided)

Chicago Police officers should vote for Eileen O’Neill Burke in the Democratic primary for Cook County state’s attorney, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said late Thursday in a video posted to the police union’s social media accounts.

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Catanzara, a supporter of indicted former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, said the race to replace Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is “more important” than the 2023 race for mayor. In that contest, Catanzara and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 endorsed former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who lost to Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Electing O’Neill Burke, a retired Illinois Appellate Court justice, rather than Clayton Harris III, an attorney and lecturer at the University of Chicago, offers a “much better chance to save this city and this county and get back to what everybody seemed to remember being a (place of) law and order and accountability,” Catanzara said.

Watch the full video.

O’Neill Burke rejected the endorsement of the city’s largest police union in a statement to WTTW News.

“Given the working relationship between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department, it was inappropriate for the FOP to issue this political statement,” a campaign spokesperson said.

O’Neill Burke “is entitled to her stance,” Catanzara told WTTW News.

“We still want our members to vote for her,” Catanzara said.

Neither Harris nor O’Neill Burke sought his union’s endorsement, Catanzara said.

O’Neill Burke’s campaign criticized Harris for meeting with FOP leaders where he “asked for their support.” A spokesperson for Harris said he did not speak with Catanzara, but did meet with other police union leaders but “did not solicit their endorsement.”

At the request of the O’Neill Burke campaign, Officer Michael Cosentino, field representative and political director for the union, called WTTW News to confirm that he met with Harris.

“We had a nice meeting, and he’s a nice man,” Cosentino said of Harris, adding that Harris did not ask for the union’s support or endorsement.

Alaina Hampton, Harris’ campaign manager, said O’Neill Burke's “supporters are explicitly urging Republican voters to meddle in a Democratic Party to win this election because they know (O’Neill Burke) will back their extreme MAGA agenda and return Cook County to the bad old days when we were the wrongful convictions capital of America.”

In his video, Catanzara said the union did not initially plan to make an endorsement in the state’s attorney’s race because there is “too much professional overlap and we didn’t want any implication of impropriety or going to be something owed for an endorsement.”

But Catanzara nevertheless urged his members and their friends and family members to vote for O’Neill Burke because “we have an opportunity, a once in a very long-time opportunity to affect our professional well-being.”

Catanzara praised O’Neill Burke for stepping down from the 1st District Appellate Court to run for state’s attorney, “sacrificing a judicial career” in order to “make the living conditions in this county better.”

Catanzara urged police officers to “hold their noses” and vote in the Democratic primary for O’Neill Burke, even if they are Republicans.

It is inappropriate for “Republican voters to meddle in a Democratic Party to win this election,” Hampton said.

While Catanzara has repeatedly blasted Foxx for criminally charging Chicago Police officers accused of misconduct and for seeking to overturn convictions where there is evidence of wrongdoing, he was much more muted when discussing Harris, who has the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party.

“There is no doubt that Clayton Harris will be a step up from Kim Foxx,” Catanzara said.

The winner of the March 19 primary will face Republican Bob Fioretti and Libertarian Andrew Charles Kopinski in November’s general election.

Catanzara said neither Fioretti nor Kopinski stands a chance of defeating the Democratic nominee.

Catanzara resigned from the Police Department in November 2021 while the Chicago Police Board was weighing whether to fire him for violating nearly a dozen rules stemming from his inflammatory social media activity and false police reports he filed against a supervisor and former Supt. Eddie Johnson.

In addition, Catanzara initially defended the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and compared Chicago’s vaccine mandate for all city employees to Nazi Germany.

Catanzara is leading an effort to upend the system used for 60 years to punish officers accused of serious misconduct. A Cook County judge is expected to decide March 20 whether to uphold the Chicago City Council’s vote to reject a decision by an arbitrator to allow officers to choose not to have their cases decided after a public hearing in front of the Chicago Police Board.

O’Neill Burke did not respond to questions from WTTW News about whether she agrees with the police union’s position on that issue.

In his video, Catanzara also urged police officers and their families who live in the 10th Judicial Subcircuit to vote for former Assistant State’s Attorney James V. Murphy for judge. When Murphy resigned as a prosecutor, he sent a blistering email to his colleagues criticizing Foxx for being “more concerned with political narratives and agenda than with victims and prosecuting violent crime.”

Catanzara highlighted the union’s endorsement of Ald. Raymond Lopez’s bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García in Illinois 4th Congressional District. As alderperson of the 15th Ward, Lopez frequently champions positions endorsed by the police union.

However, Catanzara did not urge his members to vote for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez during the video, even though her bid for re-election has been endorsed by the police union.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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