Cook County State’s Attorney (2016-)
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx harnessed progressive credentials and a close connection to Toni Preckwinkle to ride a wave of dissatisfaction with Chicago’s law enforcement apparatus to her election in 2016. She is the first African-American woman to hold the post. Foxx jumped into the race for State’s Attorney in August of 2015, seeking to oust her former boss, Anita Alvarez. Three months later, the entire political landscape changed with the release of the Laquan McDonald video.
Foxx’s personal story was ripe for a political campaign before the McDonald controversy had hundreds calling for Alvarez’s ouster. She was raised by a single mother in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing projects, where she lived until she was eight years old. Her family moved several times throughout the North Side during Foxx’s childhood, including a brief time when she and her mother were homeless. Her ability to speak plainly about her experience with poverty, crime, and sexual assault featured prominently on the trail.
Despite their “nomadic” existence, Foxx’s mother, Gennell Wilson, pushed her to pursue her dream of being an attorney. She attended LaSalle Language Academy, graduated from Lincoln Park High School, and went on to attend Southern Illinois University, where she earned her political science and law degrees.
After graduating from SIU, Foxx worked doing insurance defense for Cigna, which she said she hated and quit after nine months. She began a three year stint as an assistant public guardian with the county instead, often representing vulnerable children in custody and foster care cases. She moved on to the state’s attorney’s office, first under longtime SA Richard Devine, then Alvarez after Devine retired. She spent 12 years in the SA’s office, where she prosecuted child abuse cases.
Foxx says she flirted with a run for State’s Attorney in 2011, but her mother convinced her otherwise. Her mother had lied about her college degree to get a job at the Chicago Department of Public Health years earlier–she told her daughter she worried an opposition file might cause her to lose her job. Her mother passed away in 2012.
After becoming frustrated with the “hopelessness” of the job at the State’s Attorney’s office, she moved on to Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office in 2013, where she was hired as a deputy chief of staff handling criminal justice issues. She was promoted to chief of staff seven months later. Preckwinkle and Foxx had similar views of Alvarez’s two terms in office, believing she had been “tough” rather than “smart” on crime, and overemphasized punitive measures for low-level crimes that drove up the number of minorities in the county jail.
In August 2015, Foxx jumped in the Democratic race, joining attorney Donna More against Alvarez. Foxx campaigned on progressive criminal justice reform, including for an independent prosecutor for police shooting cases, against mandatory minimums for gun crimes, and decriminalizing minor crimes like fighting in schools that contribute to the "school-to-prison pipeline".
Three months after her campaign launched, the Laquan McDonald video release upended Chicago politics, with protesters calling for Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. Despite Foxx suffering some negative headlines over accusations she’d exaggerated her trial experience and worries about Preckwinkle’s influence, her campaign effectively mobilized on the movement, hitting Alvarez for the slow prosecution of the officer involved in Laquan McDonald’s shooting.
Preckwinkle also gave Foxx a significant leg up with the party that had previously slated Alvarez twice. The Board President helped arrange face to face meetings for Foxx to make her case for an open primary to county Democratic committeemen. They ultimately agreed, withholding endorsements (old machine higher ups, including Ald. Edward Burke and House Speaker Michael J. Madigan continued their support of Alvarez).
As of February 2017, Preckwinkle for President gave Foxx’s campaign $350,000. Fred Eychaner ($600,000), SEIU Healthcare and Illinois Council PAC ($385,000 together), and Taxpayers for Quinn ($50,000) are Foxx's top all-time donors, according to Illinois Sunshine. The Foxx campaign was fined close to $20,000 for improperly reporting donations from Preckwinkle.
A Super PAC also supported Foxx–Illinois Safety & Justice. It was funded largely by progressive billionaire George Soros ($408,000-his first foray into Illinois politics) and the “dark money” group Civic Participation Action Fund ($300,000).
In March of 2016, Foxx dominated the Democratic primary with close to 58 percent of the vote. Alvarez followed behind at 29 percent, and Donna More won 13 percent. On primary election night, she promised to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. Again in November, she beat Republican challenger Christopher Pfannkuche.
Since taking office in late 2016, she has pledged to revamp the department's conviction integrity unit, make the office more transparent, and begin implicit bias training for prosecutors.
Foxx lives in suburban Flossmoor with her husband, Kelley Foxx, an insurance underwriter, and their two daughters.
- Southern Illinois University, B.A., political science, 1994
- Southern Illinois University School of Law, J.D., 1997