• Michael McDevitt
    MAR 20, 2024

    O’Neill Burke leads Harris in tight Cook County State’s Attorney primary race

    Eileen O'Neill Burke and Clayton Harris III are competing for the Democratic nomination for Cook County State's Attorney. [Burke photo: Michael McDevitt, Harris photo from campaign social media]

    The Democratic primary race for Cook County State’s Attorney remained too close to call Tuesday night, though Eileen O’Neill Burke led party-backed candidate Clayton Harris III with roughly 51 percent of the vote to Harris’ more than 48.9 percent as of 11 p.m.

    If her lead continues as remaining mail-in votes in Chicago and the suburbs are counted, then O’Neill Burke will compete this fall to succeed outgoing State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, whose leadership O’Neill Burke has criticized.

    While Harris had the Cook County Democratic Party backing in the primary race, O’Neill Burke has consistently raised more money than Harris. 

    O’Neill Burke, a former Illinois Appellate Court judge, worked as an assistant attorney in the state’s attorney’s office handling felony appellate cases, juvenile cases and felony review work before she became a criminal defense attorney and was later elected to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2008. She also previously served as the president of the Illinois Judges Association. 

    Harris, who has been a University of Chicago professor, also served as a prosecutor under former State’s Attorney Richard Devine, where Harris prosecuted criminal appeals, narcotics and traffic cases.  

    Harris also worked on the city of Chicago’s intergovernmental affairs team before becoming general counsel to the Chicago Department of Transportation during former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration. Harris also worked for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration as chief of staff of the Illinois Department of Transportation, as deputy chief of staff to the governor’s office and later as the governor’s acting chief of staff.  

    In an interview with The Daily Line, O’Neill Burke said that if elected she would prioritize detention for violent crime and gun-related offenses. She would also reverse Foxx’s decision to raise the threshold for prosecuting retail thefts as felonies from $300 to $1,000. 

    O’Neill Burke said Foxx “doesn’t believe in accountability” during a City Club speech last week, according to the Chicago Tribune. She called the office mismanaged, citing staffing shortages and a poor relationship with law enforcement. 

    Harris told The Daily Line in an interview that he didn’t believe there should be a “trade off on safety versus justice.” While he’d focus his special prosecutions divisions on gun crimes, carjackings and organized crime, he also extolled the importance of diverting non-violent offenders and disagreed with prosecuting retail thefts under $1,000 as felonies. 

    O’Neill Burke is also in favor of creating a restorative justice bureau to intercede on behalf of offenders of non-violent felonies and other lower-level offenses and redirect the offenders to drug, mental health or veterans' courts.

    Former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti, an attorney who served under the city of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel during former Mayor Harold Washington’s administration, ran unopposed in the Republican primary for state’s attorney.

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