Chicago-Area Races Test Progressive Strength

Two local races in the Chicago area on Tuesday will gauge voters’ enthusiasm for progressive causes in an Illinois primary that lacks drama at the top of the ticket.

Progressive Democrats, who have built political strength in Chicago over the last decade but received mixed reviews for their governance, are pushing for a change to the city’s real estate transfer tax that would raise rates on high-value properties to fund homelessness programs.

Progressives are also trying to hold onto the Cook County prosecutor’s office as the incumbent, Kim Foxx, who overhauled systems but faced criticism, prepares to leave office after two terms.

The contests have sparked debates about Chicago’s post-pandemic struggles with homelessness, crime and empty downtown office space, and the races will give voters a chance to weigh in on the direction of the city under Ms. Foxx and Mayor Brandon Johnson, a fellow progressive who was elected last year.

With the major party presidential nominations already settled, the results in Chicago, which is dominated by Democrats, could come down to whether progressives or moderates have more success turning out voters.

The proposed tax change, which opponents say would be a major blow to the struggling commercial real estate sector, calls for reducing the transfer rate on properties that sell for less than $1 million, and imposing higher rates on homes and commercial buildings that sell for more than $1 million.

The extra money — supporters say it would be at least $100 million each year — would be put toward addressing homelessness, with the details of that spending to be finalized later. The City Council would still have to enact the new tax rates. Mr. Johnson, a former union organizer, supports the ballot measure and made it part of his campaign platform.

Democratic voters in Chicago and its inner-ring suburbs will also choose between two candidates vying to succeed Ms. Foxx, who brought promised changes to the local justice system but also faced criticism for persistently high crime rates and her handling of a case involving the actor Jussie Smollett.

Clayton Harris III, a university lecturer and former prosecutor, has consolidated support from progressive politicians. His opponent, Eileen O’Neill Burke, a retired appellate judge, is trying to win the nomination by appealing to moderate and conservative voters.

The winner of the primary will face a Republican in November, but countywide partisan races are rarely competitive.


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