Eileen O’Neill Burke’s Lead Shrinks Slightly Tuesday in Race to Replace Kim Foxx as Cook County’s Top Prosecutor

Video: The WTTW News Spotlight Politics team discusses the Cook County state’s attorney race and more of the day’s top news. (Produced by Sean Keenehan)

The lead held by retired judge Eileen O’Neill Burke narrowed slightly Tuesday in the close Democratic race to replace Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, as Chicago election officials counted a total of 474 ballots and Cook County officials counted approximately 800 mail-in ballots under increasing pressure.

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O’Neill Burke now has a lead of 1,598 votes, according to the Associated Press tabulation as of Tuesday evening. Since March 19, opponent Clayton Harris III has closed more than 84% of the gap that existed on Election Night, as election officials in Chicago and suburban Cook County counted ballots.

Harris closed the gap by 45 votes on Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

In all, 523,160 ballots have been counted in the contest, according to vote totals from the Associated Press.

A full week after the March 19 election, the contest remains a long way from being settled, with 53,712 outstanding mail-in ballots from Chicago and approximately 35,000 outstanding ballots from suburban Cook County that will be counted as long as they were postmarked or dropped off on Election Day and arrive by April 2.

Neither candidate has conceded or declared victory, nor has the Associated Press called the race.

Chicago election officials plan to count votes cast in nursing homes, as well as mail-in ballots received by Tuesday afternoon, on Wednesday. In addition, mail-in ballots that have yet to be approved “will be reviewed by a panel of election judges to be validated and tabulated or rejected” on Wednesday, according to a statement from Max Bever, a spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections.

Foxx, who has served as state’s attorney since 2016, opted not to run for a third term, setting off a fierce contest for the Democratic nomination for state’s attorney.

O’Neill Burke — a former circuit and appellate level judge, who also served as both an assistant state’s attorney and defense attorney — is running as a tough-on-crime candidate, which she believes is a necessary response to Foxx’s emphasis on reforming the criminal justice system.

O’Neill Burke, of Edison Park, pledged to reduce the threshold for felony shoplifting prosecutions. Under Foxx, the value of stolen goods must be worth at least $1,000 or a defendant must have 10 prior convictions before that person can be charged with a shoplifting felony. O’Neill Burke said she’d lower that total to $300, as defined by state law.

Harris, an attorney and lecturer at the University of Chicago who lives in Washington Park, is the progressive pick in the race. He has received endorsements from the Cook County Democratic Party, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Harris vowed to prioritize preventing violent crimes and to work with federal agencies to go after gun traffickers. He said he would create a new division within the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to focus on organized crime in order to prosecute those responsible for widespread carjackings and retail theft.

Unlike O’Neill Burke, Harris said he would maintain the current $1,000 threshold for felony retail theft prosecutions.

Despite their differences on retail theft prosecutions, the two candidates shared similar views on other issues, including supporting the elimination of cash bail and sharing a belief that the state’s attorney’s office must repair its relationship with law enforcement.

Both candidates also said police officers who are members of known hate or extremist groups or who have faced numerous misconduct charges should be barred from testifying in criminal cases.

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

A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago. 

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