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Democratic Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx Wins Second Term, Defeating GOP Challenger Pat O'Brien

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County State's Attorney  Kim Foxx declared victory in her race for re-election Tuesday night, holding a double digit lead over Republican challenger Pat O'Brien nearly four hours after polls closed.

With nearly 95% of precincts reporting, unofficial totals showed Foxx was leading O'Brien 53.05% to 40.35%, with Libertarian Brian Dennehy far behind with 6.6%.

Foxx said O'Brien called her late Tuesday night to congratulate her.

"I want to thank him for running a formidable race," Foxx said at her election night headquarters at the Kinzie Hotel in downtown Chicago.

Foxx also fended off three challengers in the Democratic primary, having to fight an unusually long and hard battle to keep her seat as the Democratic incumbent in an overwhelmingly blue county.

Her victory also represents a win for her progressive agenda over O'Brien's hardline law-and-order approach.

"The last four years have not been a cake walk. I came in and proposed a vision for this office that believed that we had to see the people who used our systems – victims and defendants – and told the unseemly truth that sometimes our defendants were victims, and our victims defendants," Foxx said.

While Foxx outraised and outspent O'Brien overall on the race for state's attorney, the vast majority of her fundraising and spending came during the Democratic primary. Since April, O'Brien held the financing advantage over Foxx.

Overall, the Foxx campaign spent about $4.2 million from July 2019 through the end of September 2020, compared to only $348,472 spent by O'Brien's campaign. However, once the primaries were over in April, O'Brien quickly took a fundraising lead, though Foxx has closed the gap since the start of October.

From April through the end of September, Foxx raised $241,142.24, and started October with $202,290.45 cash on-hand, according to state campaign finance data. O'Brien raised nearly double Foxx's total during that time, bringing in $438,701.20, and starting October with a slight cash advantage, with $225,653.34 cash on hand.

Foxx significantly stepped up fundraising in recent weeks, bringing in at least $708,900 since Oct. 1, compared to the $566,335.52 raised by O'Brien during the same time period.

Foxx's biggest contributors have been media mogul Fred Eychaner and investment banker Michael Sacks. Eychaner has given the Foxx campaign $300,000 since Oct. 1, and $961,400 overall since 2017, the vast majority of it before the Democratic primary in March; Sacks has contributed $200,000 to Foxx since Oct. 1, and $962,650 overall since 2017, with most of that also coming before the Democratic primary.

O'Brien was his own biggest contributor, giving his own campaign $101,075.91 since the primary, and $187,758.18 overall since 2017. He's also received $100,000 from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, $76,800 from Guaranteed Rate CEO Victor Ciardelli, and $57,800 from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.

Foxx has prided herself on her support for bail reform, to keep people charged with non-violent crime from being locked up for months before trial, simply because they can't afford to post bond. She also has pointed to her office's efforts to increase its focus on violent crimes, rather than small-time felonies like retail theft.

Despite being under intense scrutiny for the past year for her office's handling of the Jussie Smollett case, as well as O'Brien's repeated criticism of her handling of violent crime and looting in Chicago this year, Foxx has stood by her progressive vision for the office.

O'Brien hammered Foxx throughout the campaign for her office's decision to drop charges against Smollett last year (before a special prosecutor brought new charges earlier this year), and has accused her of enabling looters with her decision since taking office to raise the bar for retail theft cases, bringing felony charges only in cases when the stolen property is valued at more than $1,000. O'Brien also has faulted Foxx for allowing violent criminals charged with gun crimes to go free with low bail amounts, although the final decision on bond is up to judges. O'Brien has said prosecutors can effectively convince judges to set higher bail amounts if they make it a priority.

Foxx refused to debate O'Brien during the campaign, comparing him to President Donald Trump and sauing he would use the time for "name-calling," referencing the first debate between President Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Voters deserve to hear Mr. O'Briens platform. However, we learned during the recent Ed board interviews, that the State's Attorney participated in with Mr. O'Brien, that he will instead use the time for Trump-like name-calling and fearmongering," the Foxx campaign statement said. "The State's Attorney will always participate in interviews…. But during this nationwide crisis, she will not sit across the stage from a Republican that exploits tragedy to win a campaign. We had plenty of that last night. Voters deserve better."

The O'Brien campaign called Foxx's refusal to debate a "disservice to the people of Cook County," and added, "Voters deserve to know the substantial differences between the candidates."

In the Democratic primary in 2016, Foxx handily defeated former State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who was badly damaged by her perceived mishandling of the Laquan McDonald shooting, before coasting to victory in the general election over Christopher Pfannkuche.

When she officially launched her re-election campaign last year, Foxx admitted she didn't handle the Smollett case well, but she has repeatedly touted her efforts to reform the state's attorney's office.

She has prided herself on her support for bail reform, to keep people charged with non-violent crime from being locked up for months before trial, simply because they can't afford to post bond. She also has pointed to her office's efforts to increase its focus on violent crimes, rather than small-time felonies like retail theft.

However, the Smollett case has dominated much of the conversation in the race, in no small part because special prosecutor Dan Webb, who was tapped to re-investigate the entire affair after Foxx's office dropped charges, found evidence that "establishes substantial abuses and discretions" in Foxx's prosecution of the case, though he found no evidence of criminal activity by Foxx or anyone in her office.

"This report makes it crystal clear that Kim Foxx engaged in a substantial abuse of discretion by making false statements to the public about this case, breaching the State's Attorney's ethical obligations of honesty and transparency, In light of this report and so many other ethical lapses, Kim Foxx should resign from office," O'Brien said in a statement after Webb released his report on Foxx's handling of the Smollett case.

Foxx has faced intense criticism for her office's handling of the case, after prosecutors dropped disorderly conduct charges against Smollett just weeks after he was indicted, and without requiring him to admit guilt.

Even before police accused Smollett of staging a hoax, and still considered him a victim, Foxx tried to persuade then-Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to hand over the investigation to the FBI, after a supporter of Smollett reached out to her. Foxx has vehemently denied trying to fix the case for Smollett.

Foxx has insisted her office handled the Smollett case the same way it has handled many others in which prosecutors dropped charges without a plea agreement.

In February, a special Cook County grand jury convened by Webb indicted Smollett on six new charges of disorderly conduct, accusing him of filing false police reports claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack last year. Smollett has pleaded not guilty.

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