Cook County state’s attorney race too close to call

Eileen O’Neill Burke, the former appellate court jurist who resigned from the bench to run for Cook County state’s attorney, is leading former prosecutor and endorsed Democratic Party candidate Clayton Harris III in the Democratic primary to replace the county’s top prosecutor Kim Foxx.

With 84% of votes counted, early returns show Burke with 240,827 votes or 51.1% to Harris’ 230,195 votes or 48.9%. As of 10:30 p.m., the race was too close to call.

All vote totals are unofficial.

Speaking to her supporters around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Burke said she was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome.

“We have been leading all night with a current lead of just under 12,000 votes,” she said, adding “while we may have had our differences, we all share a love for this city and this county.”

“We will be patient and we will let the democratic process play out,” Burke said.

Harris echoed her in comments to his supporters about 10:30 p.m.

“We’ve waited a long time for this day to come. It looks like we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer,” Harris said. “We’ll make sure every voice is counted and every voice is heard.”

“All of our communities matter, so we’re going to wait and count all the votes,” he said.

Prosecuting retail theft, addressing juvenile crime and managing an understaffed prosecutor’s office were among the issues Democratic candidates Burke and Harris addressed in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary.

Harris, a University of Chicago public policy lecturer, said he would keep the controversial $1,000 threshold Foxx set for the prosecution of felony retail theft while continuing to charge lesser offenses as misdemeanors.

However, in the case of a smash-and-grab or a theft accompanied by an assault, Harris said he will approve felony charges whether the value of the items is “$1,000, $300 or $4.”

Burke, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, opposes Foxx’s initiative, stating that if elected she will enforce the law, adding that it is not an officeholder’s prerogative to decide whether to enforce a law. If there is an appetite to change it, it’s up to the General Assembly to do so, Burke said.

In response to increasing numbers of minors charged with violent crimes such as armed robbery and carjacking, Harris pledged — if elected — to hold every defendant accountable appropriately. To that end, he proposed establishing a special prosecution unit focusing on organized crime, carjacking and the gun epidemic in an attempt to heads of criminal organizations directing children to commit crimes.

Burke proposed providing young people more structure in the form of after-school enrichment, apprentice and job training programs.

The winner will face Republican candidate Bob Fioretti and Libertarian candidate Andrew Charles Kopinski in November’s general election.

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