Ald. Brendan Reilly speaks during a news conference at Milton Lee Olive Park in Chicago on Aug. 14, 2020. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, a recent critic of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, bucked his fellow Democrats and the Chicago mayor on Tuesday to endorse the Republican challenger in one of the most anticipated local races this November.
Reilly’s decision was announced by Patrick O’Brien’s campaign in the afternoon, but earlier last week the 42nd Ward alderman’s political committee Citizens for Alderman Reilly gave $1,000 to the GOP challenger’s political war chest, state records show. Reilly also sent text messages and calls touting his endorsement to his ward’s residents, he confirmed.
“Alderman Brendan Reilly 42nd Ward Chicago and his constituents know, firsthand, the consequences of Kim Foxx’s failure to aggressively prosecute repeat gun offenders and violent criminals downtown,” O’Brien wrote in a tweet.
Foxx’s campaign responded with a statement knocking Reilly’s commitment to Democratic values. Reilly is also a delegate for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“This is no surprise to the campaign,” Foxx spokeswoman Alex Sims wrote in a statement. “I think it’s a shame that these ‘Democrats’ are ignoring Pat O’Brien’s ‘Trump-like’ law and order vision and his abysmal history of wrongful convictions.”
Reilly oversees some of the swankiest chunks of the city that over the summer faced looters striking commercial corridors and prompting business owners to board up windows. He has blamed the chaos on Foxx for what he describes as a “revolving door” approach to prosecuting crime, including after the Aug. 10 lootings that touched his ward. Foxx had countered her detractors that week by announcing her office approved 90% of felony charges for more than 300 arrests related to civil unrest following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“I’m very disappointed in the State’s Attorney’s Office,” wrote Reilly. “Chicago neighborhoods are suffering from the Office’s failure to aggressively prosecute gun crime and repeat violent offenders. The Police are arresting the same people for the same crimes, over and over. The Police have come to call the system a ‘revolving door.’”
That same criticism was implied by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has endorsed Foxx’s reelection, after the latest spurt of lootings. She warned prosecutors against letting suspects cycle through the system without consequences, but it appears tensions have flamed out. A week ago, Lightfoot tweeted her strongest praise for Foxx in recent months: “We can’t go back to the bad old days. Chicago simply can’t afford more of Pat O’Brien.”
In his statement, Reilly said he supports keeping suspects accused of low-level offenses out of jail, but he believes Cook County’s criminal justice system needs to hold “violent criminals, gun crime and repeat offenders” accountable.
“When there aren’t (consequences), you get what we’ve experienced for the past 4 years: lawlessness; more violence; more homicides; and more victims,” Reilly said. “I’m a proud member of the Democratic Party and a Biden Delegate, but this is the one race I’ll be voting independent of the ticket.”