After a panel discussion between five of the Illinois Supreme Court judge candidates, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and opponent Bill Conway participated in a debate, offering their solutions to the city’s most pressing issues. Held at Progressive Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side, the candidates answered questions concerning the poor, gun control, the school-to-prison pipeline, marijuana, and the cash bail system. The discussion was moderated by David Swanson, pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville.
Foxx and Conway, both of whom are Christian, maintained a generally peaceful conversation, as they tackled questions raised through the lens of Scripture. Foxx emphasized her initiatives to target injustice in the city’s criminal justice system, along with her aims to shift the culture of the department. She recognized the disparities present within the school system, citing the lack of support for school level justice systems. “We’ve been so conditioned to calling the police on children mouthing off, pushing each other, [and] food fights,” says Foxx. “We worked with CPS and said we were not going to prosecute certain offenses, and I am proud to say for the last two years we have prosecuted fewer cases in juvenile court than we have in the prior twenty years,” reports Foxx concerning the issue of juvenile criminal justice. Conway agreed with Foxx, and added the importance of more social services for children and increased support for school leadership in de-escalation tactics. He also addressed the need for students to continue their education, both in and out of the criminal justice system, to ensure a smoother transition back into society as productive participants.
Concerning plans to reduce violent crime, Conway repeatedly emphasized the need to “disrupt the supply chain” that allows guns to enter the city as the means to reduce violent crime. He boldly opposed Foxx’s idea that gun crime should be handled with high regard for nuance. “If somebody commits a crime with a gun, I think that person should go to jail,” insisted Conway. Meanwhile, Foxx reminded the audience that other government agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, already bear the responsibility of targeting the supply chain. She recommended investing in trauma recovery services for those in crime-ridden communities as a strategy to reduce the psychological effects that cause gun violence.
While the candidates agreed on the issue of immigration and the toll it takes on the city’s most vulnerable residents, the tone of the debate elevated a bit when Conway stated “We all have come from immigrants,” using it as a unifying idea that should encourage empathy for those hurt by this administration’s policies. Foxx swiftly responded with the reminder that she is not the descendant of immigrants. She explained to her opponent the importance of that language, warning that it could “minimize what that experience looks like [and] its iteration in our criminal justice system.”
Conway focused on his experience as a military leader and former lawyer in the State’s Attorney’s office as proof of his qualification for the position, but voters seemed to be generally unimpressed. His political blunders during the debate did not help his cause. After Conway boasted of his proudest case being one where he was able to lessen the charges of a financially irresponsible principal on his way to divinity school, voters expressed feelings of deep offense. They described the candidate as “disconnected” and “not well-spoken.”
However, Foxx reminded the audience of her long list of victories during the last four years, including the indictment of R. Kelly and the expunged records of hundreds of small marijuana cases. She also stressed the importance of her connection to the typical targets of the city’s broken criminal justice system in response to accusations that she is a proponent of keeping the rich in power. “I want to… make sure people who look like me, come from places like me, are treated with the dignity and respect that my mother and grandmother never had.”