Clayton Harris III: 2024 candidate for Cook County state’s attorney


Party: Democrat

Office Sought: Cook County state’s attorney

City: Chicago

Age: 53

Occupation: Attorney and University of Chicago professor

Previous offices held:

Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

I’m running because too many people don’t feel safe in Cook County and too many others worry that justice won’t serve them. We can address that by delivering both safety and justice. That means holding violent offenders accountable and continuing to push forward on the important work of criminal justice reform.

I’m running for State’s Attorney for everyone who is afraid to come downtown or to take public transportation. But I’m also running for everyone who is a victim of an unjust traffic stop. I’m running for business that are considering closing their doors because of crime. I’m also running for every worker whose wages have been stolen, and every community who looks over their shoulder because of hate. As Cook County State’s Attorney, I’ll focus on accountability, particularly for those committing violent crimes in our communities.

What experiences and background would you bring to the office and what would your priority be?

As an Assistant State’s Attorney, I saw our system up close. I prosecuted tough cases in the narcotics division, where we took on violent, dangerous offenders — the ringleaders of the operations that were causing havoc in our communities. But more often than not, saw Cook County residents who were low-level, non-violent drug offenders, hopelessly locked in a cycle of addiction and incarceration.

That experience, and my time in the special prosecutions division, instilled in me the need for strong leadership that understands safety and justice and focuses on the real threats to our communities, like the gun traffickers, carjackers, and violent offenders that consistently cause harm.

How do you rate the impact of recent criminal justice reforms initiated by the state? If you see problems, what can be done at the local level to address them?

This election is about ensuring justice throughout Cook County and continuing the progress on the road to reform of our criminal legal system. It’s also about ensuring that residents across Cook County feel safe and we help to address the root causes of crime. I support the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act, as I believe strongly that we must move away from criminalizing poverty and begin focusing resources of our criminal justice system where it’s needed most. As State’s Attorney, I’ll communicate clearly and aggressively to the public that we are prosecuting crimes that need to be prosecuted under the PFA, while fairly considering the circumstances of the crimes people are accused of.

Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the state's attorney's office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?

I will commit additional resources to the recruitment and retention of well-trained and highly skilled prosecutors to the State’s Attorney’s Office to ensure the staff is operating at full strength. Along those lines I will also hire more paralegals to ensure that all Assistant State’s Attorneys have a manageable workload.

In addition to adding more prosecutors, I will prioritize restoring staffing in The Victim Witness Unit (VWU). As the unit’s staffing returns to appropriate levels, we will also focus on ensuring appropriate training and support for VWU staff to ensure the highest level of support for victims, while also acknowledging the challenges of the role and the need for support for those supporting survivors.

Please list any elected office you’ve ever run for and what the result of that election was. Have you ever been appointed to fill an unexpired term?

I briefly threw my hat in the ring for Cook County State’s Attorney in 2008, but opted not to pursue a campaign. I have never been appointed to fill an unexpired term.

What makes you the best candidate to represent your party to seek this position?

I’m a veteran attorney, a former prosecutor, a public policy professor, and an experienced manger. But, most importantly, I’m a dad raising two boys on the South Side of Chicago. I’m running because Cook County residents deserve to feel safe — no matter what neighborhood they live in.

I’m running because I believe Cook County residents should be able to trust their State’s Attorney to do everything they can to keep them safe — without sacrificing justice in the process. We don’t have to choose between safety and justice. We can have both.

This race comes down to judgment. And judgment is what disqualifies my opponent for this position. I want to be clear about what’s at stake in this race, because it’s not abstract. When Eileen O’Neill Burke was a prosecutor, she convicted an innocent Black child for murder. Not only did she deny that little boy justice — she denied the murder victim and her family justice as well.

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