Former Justice Eileen O’Neill Burke wins Cook County state’s attorney Democratic primary

Eileen O’Neill Burke

Eileen O’Neill Burke, a former appellate judge, has won the Democratic primary for Cook County state’s attorney over Clayton Harris III, an attorney with party backing.

The race is open because State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decided not to seek a third term. It was among the most spirited and competitive contests in the March 19 Illinois primary. The Associated Press called that race Friday.

“It was worth the wait,” O’Neill Burke said in a statement Friday. “I am so honored to be the Democratic nominee for Cook County State’s Attorney. I’d like to congratulate Clayton Harris on a hard-fought campaign. While we may have had our differences in this election, we share a love for our beautiful city and Cook County.”

The Harris campaign issued a statement conceding the race and congratulating O’Neill Burke.

“After months of organizing, meeting and talking with people from all across this county, and waiting for every vote to be counted, we’ve fallen a bit short of our goal,” Harris said in a written statement.

Harris thanked his supporters and vowed to remain focused on a system that focuses on justice and safety.

“I said throughout this campaign that I would continue to push forward on the urgent work of criminal justice reform,” he said. “That remains my commitment.”

O’Neill Burke led in fundraising, in part with money from top Republican donors. But Harris had numerous endorsements, including from labor unions and progressive and establishment Democrats.

The race is the latest example of how the legacy of progressive Democrats who swept into big city prosecutor offices over the past decade has fractured. In other cities, progressive Democrats have faced tough reelection bids with blame on progressive policies for perceptions that cities are less safe. Candidates in the Chicago area both praised and criticized Foxx’s leadership.

“Across every neighborhood and every town in Cook County, people told me the same thing: we want a fair criminal justice system that works for everyone,” O’Neill Burke said in her statement. “We want a professional and effective State’s Attorney’s Office. We want illegal guns and assault weapons off our streets. We want less crime and safer communities, not by locking everyone up, but by turning people around.”

O’Neill Burke served as a judge both in appellate court and in Cook County. She was also an attorney in the state’s attorney’s office.

Since Cook County is largely Democratic, O’Neill Burke is expected to win the November election. Republican Alderman Bob Fioretti and Libertarian Andrew Charles Kopinski are also running.

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