A debate with details — and digs

9 February 2024
Shia Kapos

TGIF, Illinois. Did everyone watch two screens at the same time last night?

Breaking late: Special counsel’s report has President Joe Biden defending his mental fitness, via POLITICO

TELEVISED DEBATE: The digs were pointed but polite during the exchange Thursday between the two Democratic candidates running for Cook County state’s attorney.

“If you think things are going just fine right now, I’m not your candidate. Mr. Harris is your candidate,” Eileen O’Neill Burke said about Clayton Harris III, who has been endorsed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and is an ally of outgoing State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Voters might have a hard time finding differences between these two candidates who both want to improve morale and streamline processes in an office where employees are spread too thin.

But there are differences. One area is retail theft, a constant worry of businesses in Chicago. O’Neill Burke said she would apply a $300 threshold but consider easing up on first-time offenders. Harris said he would make sure to better enforce the current law, which is a $1,000 threshold.

Harris said he would create a special division to focus on organized crime, and he’d eliminate the paperwork required to expunge drug convictions.

O’Neill Burke would create a Choice Protection Unit to focus on the anti-abortion activists who have ramped up their actions in Illinois since the Dobbs decision struck down Roe v. Wade.

The most tense moment: Harris attacked O’Neill Burke for a 30-year-old case in which she prosecuted an 11-year-old whose conviction was later thrown out. Harris said it was due to mistakes by O’Neill Burke. She countered that her prosecution was never in question but that a false confession was the issue.

Both candidates have the chops. Harris is a former state’s attorney and governor’s chief of staff who now lectures at the University of Chicago, and O’Neill Burke is a former criminal defense lawyer, judge and appellate court justice.

The winner of the March 19 contest will face Bob Fioretti, the Republican candidate. There’s buzz in conservative circles that some Republican voters might cross parties for the primary in order to vote for O’Neill Burke.

ABC 7’s Craig Wall called the race “one of the most closely watched” in the spring primary.

Tribune’s Rick Pearson called the debate mostly “civil.”


GIMME A “T” FOR TAX BREAK: Two state lawmakers on opposite ends of the political battlefield agree on one thing: People who make Illinois their home deserve some tax breaks.

Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s HB5152 would benefit people who relocate to Illinois “as a result of attacks on health care access and free speech in their home states.” Under her bill, any taxpayer who relocates to Illinois as a patient or household member of a patient is eligible for a $500 tax credit. The bill also provides the same credit for licensed healthcare providers or teachers and their households.

Cassidy has been a strong proponent for legislation that has made Illinois an oasis for reproductive rights, so this latest proposal fits in her wheelhouse.

Republican state Sen. Seth Lewis is championing legislation that rewards businesses who are staying put in Illinois.

His Senate Bill 2075 calls it a “legacy tax credit.” It gives $100 for each year the taxpayer owner of a sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation has been headquartered in Illinois. There would be a limit to 10 percent of their state income tax obligation, says Lewis, a small business owner as a State Farm agent.

Lewis supported giving Gov. JB Pritzker funds to help sweeten deals to get large businesses to move to Illinois. “We always chase the shiny object, but what about the small business owners who have weathered the storm of changing regulations and have stayed?” Lewis told Playbook. “Let’s recognize their contribution.”

If you are Bob Fioretti, Playbook would like to hear from you. Email skapos@politico.com



— Feb. 21: The “Open to Debate” program features four legal experts on the topic: “Has Citizens United Undermined Democracy?” At Northwestern Law. Details here