Foxx turns back challenge, will face O'Brien in November for state's attorney

  • Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks during a press conference in Chicago after Foxx filed motions to vacate more than 1,000 low-level cannabis convictions, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

    Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks during a press conference in Chicago after Foxx filed motions to vacate more than 1,000 low-level cannabis convictions, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

  • Patrick O'Brien, left, and  Christopher Pfannkuche, right, are Republican candidates for  Cook County State's Attorney

    Patrick O'Brien, left, and Christopher Pfannkuche, right, are Republican candidates for Cook County State's Attorney

 
 
Updated 3/17/2020 10:51 PM

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx won the Democratic primary Tuesday in her bid for reelection, despite a yearlong controversy over her handling of the high-profile case of former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

Winning without a majority in four-way race, Foxx will face former Cook County judge Patrick O'Brien of Chicago, who easily won the Republican primary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With 84% of the unofficial returns in, the Flossmoor Democrat garnered 272,004 votes, or 48%.

Fellow Democrat Bill Conway, who waged a heavily funded media campaign, collected 184,280 votes; followed by former assistant U.S. Attorney Donna More, 80,590; and former Chicago alderman Bob Fioretti, 28,952.

Flanked by her husband and daughters, Foxx thanked her supporters who "rejected the notion that we would talk about one single case and not what mattered to the people of Cook County."

Referring to her efforts at bail reform, expunging low-level marijuana convictions, vacating wrongful convictions obtained by false confessions and her efforts to address gun violence, Foxx said "transformative change is never easy. Tonight the voters have spoken to continue our mandate for criminal justice reform."

On the Republican side, O'Brien collected 41,260 votes, easily defeating former prosecutor Christopher Pfannkuche, who tallied 15,106 votes.

O'Brien praised his opponent Pfannkuche for his many years of service to Cook County and said he is prepared for the campaign ahead.

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"There's a tougher road to go, defeating a Democrat sitting state's attorney in Cook County but we're prepared to do that," O'Brien said. "It has to happen otherwise a place that's like Dodge City now will become like Tombstone."

The Smollett controversy arose after Foxx dismissed with little explanation the disorderly conduct charges against Smollett, 37, who Chicago police say staged an attack on himself and lied about it to authorities.

Foxx's Democrat and Republican opponents criticized her handling of the case, charging favoritism and claiming Smollett received special treatment based on his political connections and celebrity.

Violent crime, the proliferation of illegal weapons and criminal justice reform -- including bail reform and incarceration alternatives -- dominated the campaign which saw the Democrat candidates raise a little more than $16 million combined as of early March, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The lion's share, more than $11.4 million went to Conway, with his father William Conway r., co-founder of the investment group The Carlyle Group, contributing $10.5 million to his son's campaign. Foxx raised $3.4 million as of early March, according to Board of Elections filings. The two Republican candidates combined raised just under $180,000 according to the Board of Elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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