Embattled Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez defended her tenure during editorial board endorsement sessions for the city's two major newspapers last week.
Alvarez has come under fire in the wake of the police shooting of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald, with many criticizing her for not charging Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with McDonald’s murder for 400 days.
Van Dyke was charged as video of the incident, obtained using a Freedom of Information Act request, was being made public.
During Thursday's session with the Chicago Tribune editorial board, Alvarez said she does not “believe any mistakes were made” during the handling of the McDonald case and that “a meticulous, thorough, comprehensive investigation” was carried out to investigate the shooting.
Alvarez faced off against former Cook County Assistant State’s attorney Kim Foxx and former federal and state prosecutor Donna More, who both accused Alvarez of mishandling the case.
“The whole world saw this videotape, and everybody except one person believed there was probably cause to bring charges here, and that one person was our incumbent state’s attorney,” said More.
“It was unnecessary and unwarranted for her to await the US attorney’s office civil rights violations to bring these charges against Jason Van Dyke,” Foxx said. “The truth of the matter is she had determined he was a murderer and allowed him to go to work every day, to walk amongst us every day.”
During Friday's endorsement session with the Chicago Sun Times, Alvarez said, "my credibility speaks for itself."
Foxx’s record at the State’s Attorney’s office came into question last week when a FOIA request to that office revealed that she had only tried one case in the Felony Trial Division during her 12 years there. The FOIA request also revealed that Foxx had never tried a murder case.
“If Kim Foxx believes she has tried 'hundreds of felony cases' like she's repeatedly claimed, she should release her own records to back those claims up,” Alvarez’s campaign manager Mike Carson told Ward Room in a statement. “If not, it's time for Foxx to apologize for misrepresenting her record to the press and the public.”
Alvarez addressed the issue during the Sun-Times editorial board Friday, asking Foxx, “what else are you lying about?”
Foxx countered, claiming "the state's attorney is using her office for political reasons."
"During her time [at the state's attorney's office], she managed a docket of more than 5,000 criminal cases and prosecuted hundreds of cases, including felony trials and evidentiary hearinds." Foxx spokesperson Joanna Klonsky told Ward Room. "She prosecuted hundreds of felony cases, including murders, rapes and carjackings- and about 100 of those went to bench or jury trials."
During Thursday's meeting, More said she would appoint a special unit of former U.S. attorneys to handle cases involving police shootings. Foxx laid out plans to appoint special independent prosecutors to investigate each fatal shooting in the city.
Alvarez and More both claimed that a special prosecutor would be too expensive and called into question Foxx’s tenure as chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Foxx served under Preckwinkle when the board increased the county sales tax by a penny on the dollar last July.
“Maybe that’s just how you do it,” More said. “You just keep raising taxes for special prosecutors.”
Alvarez equated the sales tax increase “to picking the pockets of the taxpayers here in Cook County.”
"While Kim was Chief of Staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the County passed a modest sales tax increase to shore up the County pension system," Klonsky said. "Unlike other bodies of government, the County took the need to raise revenue to support the pension mandate head on to make sure County workers could retire with dignity."
A Tribune poll released last week found that 71 percent of Chicagoans were not satisfied with Alvarez’s handling of the case and only 30 percent of voters approved of her overall job performance.
Nonetheless, the same poll found that 34 percent of respondents would vote for Alvarez with Foxx receiving 27 percent of votes and More receiving 12 percent. Twnety-six percent of voters are either undecided or backing other candidates.
The Democratic Primary for Cook County State’s Attorney will be held on March 15.