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Former Illinois House GOP leader Jim Durkin won't run for Cook County state's attorney, citing Trump's impact

Former Illinois House GOP leader Jim Durkin won't run for Cook County state's attorney
Former Illinois House GOP leader Jim Durkin won't run for Cook County state's attorney 06:30

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Former Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has decided not to throw his hat in the ring in the race to replace outgoing Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, saying he thinks it will be an unwinnable race for any Republican with Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket.

While Durkin said he would love to serve as Cook County's top prosecutor, he said he has spent the past several weeks crunching the numbers and examining polls, he didn't see any realistic path to victory as a Republican running in Cook County.

"I know that if you're going to run in a race, you have to run knowing that you have a good chance of winning, and I see no path winning with Trump at the top of the ticket," Durkin told CBS Chicago streaming anchor Brad Edwards. "The fact is it's going to be a terrible time for Republicans if he is going to be at the top of the ticket, and my calculation suggested that that's what's going to happen."

Running as a Republican in Cook County is already challenging enough for any candidate even without Trump as a factor. A Republican hasn't been elected Cook County state's attorney since Jack O'Malley in 1992, and there hasn't been a Republican elected to any other countywide office since James O'Grady was elected Cook County sheriff in 1986.

But with Trump as the likely GOP nominee for president, Durkin said running for countywide office under the Republican banner is essentially a no-win scenario.

"With every day that goes by – we're less than 50 days before the Iowa caucuses, and it appears that Trump is going to be the eventual nominee [for president] – that landscape in Cook County just becomes even more difficult for Republicans, knowing that Trump will be leading the ticket," Durkin said.

Despite being one of few Illinois Republicans to consistently and openly criticize Trump, Durkin said if he ran in Cook County, he'd end up being painted in the same light as Trump and other far-right Republicans.

"I'm going to be spending more time explaining why I'm not a Donald Trump MAGA person," he said, referring to the former president's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. "I'm a John McCain pragmatic Republican. I ran both of his campaigns for president in Illinois. That's the way the government should be run."

Durkin said the Republican Party needs to stand up to Trump's lies about the 2020 presidential election being stolen, and said every American should be concerned about his praise for the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

"He has become worse since he's left office. He is probably the most divisive, vindictive, hateful person ever to serve in that office, and quite frankly I want nothing to do with that. I don't want my name on the ballot with him," Durkin said.

Durkin's decision not to run for Cook County state's attorney leaves former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti as the only Republican in the race for now. Fioretti has lost multiple bids for citywide and countywide office since his one term as an alderman, falling far short in bids for Chicago mayor, Cook County Board president, and Cook County state's attorney.

Two Democrats also are running – University of Chicago professor and former assistant state's attorney Clayton Harris III and retired appeals court judge Eileen O'Neill Burke.

While Durkin won't be running for state's attorney in 2024, he didn't rule out running for that office or another office down the line. He said he's also committed to the Republican Party, and hopes to turn it away from the far-right extremists who have taken control of the GOP.

"I believe in Republican principles. I don't believe in the people that have hijacked the party, the far-right. I don't believe in them, and I will do whatever I need to do to stop this insanity that's going on on the far-right, and speak up for the moderates in the middle. That's what people want to see," he said.

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