By Max Greenwood
Kim Foxx, the former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle running for state’s attorney, won a key ally in the Cook County Democratic Party on Thursday, five months after the party said it wouldn’t endorse a candidate for the office.
The endorsement could pose a significant challenge for incumbent Anita Alvarez’s reelection bid. Alvarez has faced sharp criticism in recent months that she mishandled the indictment of a white police officer charged with shooting a black teenager 16 times in 2014. Other critics have accused Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel of trying to cover up the case.
Cook County Democrats held their original slating meeting last August, but ultimately decided to leave their endorsement for state’s attorney open. That stance changed Friday, when the group’s leaders called for a second meeting to hear endorsement bids for the office, a move largely driven by Foxx’s former boss, Preckwinkle, who serves on the committee.
The group’s decision to endorse Foxx was made in a closed-door meeting, before announcing the decision to non-committeemen.
Candidates will face off for their party’s nomination in Illinois’ March 15 primary election.
“I truly believe that this is a time of transformative change in Cook County,” Foxx said, moments after the committee made its announcement. “I’m honored to be thought of as the one who can bring that kind of leadership to the county.”
Foxx has remained a little-known candidate since announcing her bid for the state’s attorney last year. But the backing of the Cook County Democrats is an endorsement that could pay off in terms of notoriety and votes, further tightening a high-profile race. Foxx also won the support of the Democratic Party of Evanston on Sunday.
Still, the endorsement came as little surprise to the candidates. Donna More, a former federal prosecutor, firmly rejected the group’s support before they announced their decision, urging them instead to keep the state’s attorney primary open. She also accused Preckwinkle of trying to make a power grab by endorsing her former chief of staff.
“Toni Preckwinkle wants the power of indictment,” More said. “That’s why she’s endorsing her emissary in this office. It’s a power play.”
Since launching her campaign last Wednesday, More has said she would not seek endorsements from politicians or party groups, and has worked to paint herself as a political outsider. More said the Cook County Democrats’ endorsement of Foxx actually helps her campaign.
Preckwinkle rebuffed questions from reporters of whether Foxx would act as an agent for the Cook County Board President’s Office, calling the idea “ridiculous,” and saying Foxx would work independently.
“I’ve always focused on the substance, criminal justice reform, as I said, from the very beginning,” Preckwinkle said. “And I have supported a lot of good people, . . . a number of them have won, and a number of of them have lost. And I feel strongly that this is the best person for this job.”