The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from Daniel Donner, David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert and David Beard.
Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast
● Cook County, IL State's Attorney: Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx announced Tuesday that she would not seek re-election next year as the top prosecutor for America's second-most populous county, which is home to Chicago and many of its suburbs. The departure of Foxx, a prominent criminal justice reformer whose 2016 win made her the first Black woman to hold this post, is likely to set off a wide-open Democratic primary to replace her. Whoever wins that contest, which is scheduled to coincide with Illinois' March presidential primary, should be the favorite in next year's general election for an office Republicans haven't won since 1992.
Foxx was chief of staff to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2015 when she decided to challenge the incumbent state's attorney, Anita Alvarez, whom she'd previously worked for. Foxx faulted Alvarez as someone who "was very much needing to prove that she would be tough on crime, as opposed to thoughtful or smart on crime," and the challenger received a boost early in her campaign when the county Democratic Party declined to take sides.
Alvarez's standing took a huge hit later that year for her long delay in indicting a white Chicago police officer named Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager. Alvarez had waited until 13 months after McDonald's death to bring those charges and only did so just hours before the court-ordered release of dashcam video depicting the crime. While Alvarez claimed she'd already decided to indict Van Dyke weeks earlier and denied she'd been involved in covering up the footage, the story became Foxx's central argument for why a change was needed. (Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2019 and was freed halfway through his seven-year prison sentence.)
Alvarez spent the rest of the campaign rejecting calls for her resignation and dealing with protesters at her events, while Foxx earned the endorsement of the previously neutral county party. The challenger won the primary in a 58-29 landslide and declared on election night, "We are turning the page on a chapter in our history where we can begin to look forward and transform our criminal justice system." Foxx easily prevailed in the general election in an early and high-profile win for criminal justice reformers.
The new state's attorney pleased supporters by focusing on alternatives to jail, supporting an end to cash bail, and expunging thousands of low-level marijuana convictions. However, while Foxx and her allies pointed to data showing that violent crime had decreased during her first term, national Republicans and critics at home still insisted she was to blame for Chicago's ongoing crime problems. She also attracted widespread attention in 2019 when a grand jury initially indicted actor Jussie Smollett after he was accused of faking a racist and homophobic attack on himself, only for Foxx's office to drop the charges. (Foxx said she had recused herself from the case.)
Former prosecutor Bill Conway, who was heavily financed by his billionaire father, sought to challenge Foxx in 2020 and tried to utilize the Smollett story against her, especially after a grand jury indicted the actor again. Conway heavily outspent Foxx, but she still was able to win endorsements from prominent Illinois Democrats like Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot; billionaire philanthropist George Soros also contributed $2 million to a pro-Foxx group.
The incumbent, who focused her campaign on her work reforming the state's attorney office, won renomination 50-31, but the Chicago police union still tried to beat her in the general election by supporting Republican Pat O'Brien. Foxx, this time, prevailed 54-39, though she ran far behind Joe Biden's 74-24 margin in Cook County. Her second term saw a repeat of many of the conflicts that defined her first: Foxx's performance was even an issue in Chicago's recently concluded race for mayor, with progressive Brandon Johnson praising her for being "part of the type of reform that's needed" as centrist Paul Vallas attacked her tenure.
Foxx told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday that she was keeping her promise to her family to serve just two terms, though she expressed her fear that her replacement might have very different priorities. "I could well imagine that there will be people who will want to play on the fears of communities that are least impacted by crime or less impacted by crime to sell a narrative, around, you know, more prosecution, more police, more punitiveness," she said, though she also pointed to Johnson's win earlier this month as a sign that such an effort might not succeed.
A few fellow Democrats have already started to express interest in running to succeed Foxx, including at least one who has made it clear he wants to change course. Dan Kirk, who previously served as Alvarez's chief of staff, tells the Chicago Sun-Times, "What's obviously clear to me is that Cook County is in desperate need of a new state's attorney that will do the job with integrity, enforce the law, hold criminals accountable and make public safety their No. 1 priority."
Kirk added that if he doesn't run, it's "imperative that it's somebody else who believes in the direction that I just articulated." He named former Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson and former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin as possible alternatives. Both Ferguson, whom the paper says "is widely regarded as the best inspector general Chicago has had," and Boykin, who lost renomination in 2018 to Johnson, confirmed they were thinking about the races.
The Sun-Times also relays that Preckwinkle has been "vetting" Risa Lanier, who is Foxx's first assistant. Foxx used her retirement speech to praise her deputy as "my rock," though Lanier hasn't yet said if she's mulling a bid.
● MI-Sen: The Detroit News writes that Michigan State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh said over the weekend she plans to announce "soon" that she'll be joining Rep. Elissa Slotkin in the Democratic primary.
Another contender is Nasser Beydoun, who previously led the American Arab Chamber of Commerce and launched his own campaign for the nomination days later, and he says his exploratory committee raised $100,000. "I'm a moderate. A civil rights advocate, a human rights advocate," said Beydoun, who waged an aborted 2006 GOP primary campaign for this seat. Slotkin, for her part, hauled in $3.1 million for her opening quarter and ended March with $2.3 million in the bank.
● OH-Sen: Venture capitalist Mark Kvamme said this week he'd support businessman Bernie Moreno in the Republican primary rather than run himself.
● TX-Sen: State Sen. Roland Gutierrez confirmed Tuesday that he's considering seeking the Democratic nod to face GOP incumbent Ted Cruz, though he said his focus was on the legislative session that's set to end May 29.
● CA-Gov: Former state Comptroller Betty Yee said Monday evening she'd be competing in the 2026 top-two primary for governor, a declaration that came hours after her fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, became the first major candidate to enter the race. Both contenders would be the first woman to lead California, while Yee would also be the Golden State's first Asian American governor.
Yee was appointed in 2004 to the Board of Equalization, the four-member body that administers tax collection across the state, and she decisively won her 2006 campaign to keep her seat. Her 2014 statewide bid for comptroller briefly attracted national attention on the night of the top-two primary when results initially showed two Republicans, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and a little-known contender named David Evans, ahead of Assembly Speaker John Perez and Yee.
Evans, though, quickly fell to fourth as more ballots were tabulated, though it took another month-and-a-half and a partial recount to confirm that Yee finished 481 votes ahead of Perez for that crucial second general election spot. She went on to beat Swearengin 54-46 during that red wave year, and Yee easily won re-election four years later.
● LA-Gov: The far-right Club for Growth on Tuesday both endorsed GOP Attorney General Jeff Landry and released a WPA Intelligence Poll showing their man well ahead in the October all-party primary. The survey puts Landry at 36% as former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, who is the only serious Democrat in the contest, beats out Republican Treasurer John Schroder 18-6 for the second general election spot.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Former City Council member Cherelle Parker earned an endorsement Tuesday from Derek Green, a former colleague who dropped out of the May 16 Democratic primary in time to remove his name from the ballot.