Several prominent African-American leaders in Chicago and Cook County gathered Tuesday afternoon to voice their support for Cook County state's attorney candidate Kim Foxx over embattled incumbent Anita Alvarez.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who endorsed Foxx weeks ago, was among those at the press conference in support of Foxx. The event took place at the Holiday Inn Merchandise Mart, located at 350 West Mart Center Drive.
"I've said for quite some time that Anita Alvarez had to be dragged kicking and screaming down the road to criminal justice reform," Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle's support for Foxx could hurt Alvarez's campaign, but Donna More, another former prosecutor who is challenging Alvarez in the March primary, says Foxx's ties to Preckwinkle are unacceptable. Foxx is a former chief of staff for Preckwinkle, and More said the two are "one in the same."
Foxx, nonetheless, touts her experience working under Preckwinkle.
"In terms of independence, I think I've had an opportunity to show my leadership as a chief of staff and my leadership as a reformer, and I will continue to do that," Foxx said.
Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers and several African-American aldermen, including Ald. Roderick Sawyer, who heads the City Council Black Caucus, also attended the Foxx event Tuesday. Rounding out the list were state senators Toi Hutchinson and Kwame Raoul, state representatives Emanuel Chris Welch and Jehan Gordon-Booth and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Kari Steele.
In recent weeks, Foxx has also received endorsements from Ald. John Arena, Sen. Daniel Biss, Ald. Leslie Hairston, former Cook County Board President Bobbi Steele, Ald. Scott Waguespack, labor union SEIU Local 73 and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
In a press release for the event, the group called Alvarez's handling of the Laquan McDonald case "troubling."
In response to comments made about Alvarez at the press conference, a spokesperson for Alvarez released a statement saying the state's attorney's legal decisions are "independent" and not "influenced or controlled by politicians."
"A better question would be why these elected officials (at the Foxx event) all sat on their hands while the city of Chicago approved a $5 million civil settlement in the Laquan McDonald case without any public accountability," Sally Daly, Alvarez's spokesperson, said. "While they remained silent on the sidelines, Anita Alvarez was building a strong and thorough case to ensure that the murderer of Laquan McDonald would be held accountable."
Foxx has received a leg-up in their election campaigns in recent days as Alvarez came under fire for the 13 months it took her office to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder for shooting Laquan McDonald to death in October 2014. Charges were filed Nov. 24, the same day the dashcam video showing the shooting was released to the public.
Riding on the wave of criticism against Alvarez and calls for her resignation, Foxx and Donna More, another challenger, have released statements decrying Alvarez's role in the lengthy investigation and demanding justice for McDonald's family.
Despite the harsh criticism and demands for her resignation, Alvarez has so far stood by her decisions throughout the investigation and defended the process her office used. She has not given any indication that she plans step down.
Last week, Alvarez said her political opponents' use of the McDonald case to boost their campaigns is "disgusting."
"That's disgusting, it's degrading. It's degrading to the criminal justice system," Alvarez said at an impromptu press conference. "The case is pending right now, and I think it's disgusting what they're trying to do, to turn this into their own political game. And I think that's exactly what's happening here."