O’Neill Burke wins Democratic primary for state’s attorney

With very few votes left to be counted in suburban Cook County and Chicago, former Appellate Justice Eileen O’Neill Burke declared victory Friday evening in the Democratic primary race for Cook County state’s attorney. Opponent Clayton Harris III called O’Neill Burke to concede, his campaign said.

“It was worth the wait,” O’Neill Burke said in a campaign release. “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.”

At Friday’s conclusion of vote counting by Chicago and Cook County election officials, the two candidates were separated by 1,556 votes — a sum that had not budged much throughout this week. O’Neill Burke had a lead of 10,000 votes on election night and though her margin declined steadily she never lost her advantage over Harris, a university lecturer and former prosecutor.


Harris’ camp had held onto hope he could overtake O’Neill Burke, saying they would wait until that April 2 deadline when the last of valid mail-in returns are eligible to be counted to decide its next steps. If he continued to trail behind O’Neill Burke, he could concede or request a discovery recount.

Though there are more than 45,000 unreturned mail ballots across the city, the Chicago Board of Elections did not expect all to return properly postmarked by March 19 to meet the April 2 deadline. Returns had already been dwindling throughout this week, with daily return totals in the city numbering in hundreds, not thousands. Suburban judges reported just 19 ballots that arrived Thursday and Friday morning.


The two ran a tight race where O’Neill Burke campaigned about being tougher on crime while Harris preached of balancing safety with continuing reforms in the prosecutor’s office.

“If I’ve learned one thing during this process, it’s that there is so much more that unites us than what divides us. 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. Whether you voted for me or not, I promise to work tirelessly as your State’s Attorney.”

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