Cook state's attorney primary could come down to suburbs
The Northwest suburbs could play a major role in what is shaping up to be a contentious Democratic primary for Cook County state's attorney.
Incumbent Anita Alvarez, under fire over the length of time it took her office to charge Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, will face Kim Foxx, former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and former prosecutor Donna More in the March primary. Filing closed Monday afternoon.
"The city may be divided, but the deciding factor could be the Northwest suburbs," said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University.
In the week since Chicago police released the video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, several officials including Preckwinkle, former mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and other members of the Chicago City Council's Latino Caucus have called for Alvarez to resign, saying it took too long to bring murder charges against Van Dyke.
"She will not resign," Green predicted. "She was elected, she has a primary coming up. Let the voters decide."
Alvarez released a statement on Monday basically reiterating Green's prediction.
"I am a professional prosecutor and I am not driven by politics. I will not be bullied by politicians who do not have a full understanding of the facts of this investigation," Alvarez wrote in the statement.
"I offer no apologies for enlisting the FBI to investigate Laquan's murder because obviously the Chicago Police Department could not investigate themselves in this case. And I certainly do not apologize for conducting a meticulous and thorough investigation to build the strongest possible first-degree murder case against Officer Van Dyke."
Former Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said he expects the Van Dyke case to reverberate throughout the election season in both the city and suburbs.
"The recent charges and video are receiving such broad coverage that whether you are in the city or the suburbs, people are going to be aware of the issue and have a reaction to it one way or another," Devine said. "The case and the video of the potential to have an impact throughout the county."
While the heated issue keeps people talking, Green said the race will likely be "very competitive and very expensive."
To keep up with Alvarez and Foxx, More -- who spent five years working in the state's attorney's office in the 1980s and was the first chief legal counsel for the newly formed Illinois Gaming Board in 1990 -- will need to increase her name recognition and fundraising between now and March, Green said.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not yet said whom he will support.
Racial lines could also play a role in the race, since the Democratic candidates are a black person, a Hispanic person and a white person, all women.
"If Foxx can get a big turnout in the African-American community that will help her. For Alvarez there will be other Hispanics on the ticket including Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza for state comptroller, so there will be an effort there," Green said.
One Republican candidate has also filed. He is Christopher E.K. Pfannkuche of Chicago, a prosecutor who has worked for the Cook County state's attorney's and the downstate Macon County state's attorney.
Voter turnout will also matter, Green said, but will be affected by whether the Democratic presidential race is still active by the date of the Illinois primary.
In the months leading up to primary day, Green said suburban voters can expect to see more advertising about this race than nearly any other.
"Guaranteed there will be a lot of commercials and a lot of mailings," Green said. "By the middle of March your mail carriers will all be hunchbacks."