On Friday, January 31, 2020, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx extended an invitation to local media to speak on her vision for the future. The intimate conversation was held at State’s Attorney’s campaign headquarters in Bronzeville. The incumbent, Foxx, is currently in a heated battle for re-election against challengers, Bill Conway and Donna More. Conway’s new campaign ads attack Foxx for her role in the handling of the Jussie Smollett case. Meanwhile, More is hoping a report from Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, assigned to investigate Foxx’s part in the Smollett case, will give her campaign more spotlight.
Since the election of Foxx in 2016, she has championed causes, which have resulted in a reduction in incarceration rates. In 2017, Foxx worked on the decriminalization of poverty-related offenses, when her office stopped prosecuting people with suspended licenses for their failure to pay their tickets. This initiative by Foxx has angered members of the Fraternal of Police and suburban police departments because of their inability to make easy arrests due to license violations. On January 17, 2020, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the License to Work Act into law. This law helps motorists by getting rid of the penalty that would suspend a person’s driver’s license for non-moving violations. As a result of this new law, 55,000 people in Illinois will have their licenses reinstated. Foxx initiated this idea three years ago when the concept was not popular.
“That is what reform feels like; it is not pretty, it is not easy,” Foxx stated. “When you do something different, they come for you.”
Foxx spoke candidly about the threats and intimidation tactics used against her. “After the Smollett case, there was a big march at my office by four different white nationalist groups,” Foxx declared. “There was a barrage of hate mail, not just about that case, but because of my mere presence in this race.”
Another example of how Foxx is reforming the system was displayed in the report by The Marshall Project in October 2019. It provided evidence of Foxx rejecting more than 5,000 cases that would have been pursued by previous State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. These were low-level shoplifting and drug offenses that Foxx’s office directed to alternative treatment programs. As a result of Foxx’s initiative, small thefts are no longer prosecuted as felonies.
One of Foxx’s significant accomplishments during her first term in office is the role she played in helping Illinois legalize marijuana. The new law allows Illinois to restore the lives of individuals by lifting the misdemeanor convictions of those with criminal records for marijuana-related matters. Illinois is the eleventh state to legalize marijuana, but the first to clear the records of offenders. This new law expunges nearly 800,000 marijuana convictions in Illinois.
“We are just scratching the surface,” Foxx acknowledged. “And while the marijuana legislation is historic, there are too many communities ravaged by violence, too many communities that do not see their full potential and too many uses of our resources going in the wrong places. I need another term to continue to make those strides.”
Foxx has received high profile endorsements from the likes of Presidential Hopeful, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and award-winning artist John Legend. However, Foxx knows she needs the people of Cook County to stand with her to continue the reform she began in her first term. Foxx credits childhood poverty, growing up in Cabrini-Green, and other life experiences for shaping her perspective in the office she serves.
“I am just like the people who come up in our system,” Foxx shared. “I have more in common with the people in our criminal justice system than the eight hundred lawyers that work there.”
Election Day is March 17, 2020.
Anthony Ellis McGee – Contributing Writer