In a video announcing her reelection campaign, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx did something few Chicago politicians do: She admitted fault. Foxx had been criticized by President Donald Trump, the Fraternal Order of Police and many Chicagoans for her decision to drop all 16 felony disorderly conduct charges against actor Jussie Smollett, who police say staged a racist and homophobic attack involving two men with a noose. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Foxx’s decision “a whitewash of justice.” Trump called it “a real big scam.” Foxx said in her video, “Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that,” the Washington Post reports. The criticism has not subsided as Foxx fights to keep her job in the March 17 primary, when she faces three challengers.
Foxx took control of the second-largest U.S. prosecutor’s office in 2016 as the first black woman in the job and a key figure among “progressive prosecutors” who won elections on pledges to fix what they view as a broken justice system that unfairly punishes poor people and minorities. She has been seeking out wrongful convictions, clearing low-level drug offenses and cutting prosecution of shoplifting in favor of targeting gun violence. Still, the Smollett case threatens to define her term, amid accusations that the dropped charges were a political favor. Her most well-funded challenger, former prosecutor Bill Conway, has made the Smollett controversy a central point in his campaign, promising to be a reformer like Foxx, but one who “will be a beacon of public trust.” Foxx says “trying to sum it all up by one case is just an attempt to distract by those who want to take us back.” Some fear losing her bid for a second term would impede the surge in prosecutors seeking to shift the nation away from incarceration-driven practices.