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Race to Watch: Cook County State’s Attorney

state's atty race edit

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who was first elected to the seat in 2008, is running for re-election amid calls for her resignation in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

This year's election will be Alvarez's first contested run in the Democratic primary in eight years. She will face protege and former Assistant State's Attorney Kim Foxx as well as former federal and state prosecutor Donna More in the March 15 election.

Alvarez is a Chicago native from the Pilsen neighborhood. She is the first hispanic woman to be elected as Cook County State’s Attorney.

She has spent her entire legal career in the State’s Attorney’s office where she has worked in a variety of capacities: Chief Deputy State’s Attorney, Chief of Staff to the Cook County State’s Attorney, Chief if the Special Prosecutions Bureau, Deputy Chief of the Narcotic Bureau, Supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit.

She also served on the Gang Crimes Unit for 3 1/2 years.

Alvarez has tried high profile cases, including the “Girl X” case that received widespread media attention. In that case, Alvarez prosecuted Patrick Sykes for a predatory assault that left the 9-year-old victim paralyzed, blind and without speech.

According to a recent Tribune poll, Alvarez received 34 percent of votes with Foxx receiving 27 percent and More receiving 12 percent. Twenty-six percent of voters are either undecided or backing other candidates.

Alvarez came under fire amid the Laquan McDonald scandal. McDonald, a 17-year-old Chicagoan, was shot and killed by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke in October of 2014. Van Dyke was not charged with McDonald’s murder until November of 2015 when dash-cam footage of the incident was made public as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Foxx released a campaign ad earlier this month claiming that in the wake of the Laquan Mcdonald shooting, Alvarez did nothing for 400 days as Van Dyke was not charged with McDonald's murder for 13 months.

“It’s disappointing that Kim Foxx is running attack ads to score political points off the death of a teenager,” Alvarez’s campaign manager Mike Carson said in a statement to Ward Room.

Foxx is a Chicago native, raised in the Cabrini-Green housing projects. She served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County for 12 years.

Foxx more recently served as Chief of Staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. In this position, Foxx managed a $4 billion annual budget and served as counsel to Preckwinkle, who serves as president of the country’s second largest county.

During her tenure under Preckwinkle, Foxx was the lead architect of the criminal justice reform agenda which deals with racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Foxx has received high-profile endorsements from Preckwinkle, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, among others.

Foxx also secured an endorsement after courting the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31. AFSCME Council 31 is the largest county employee, representing roughly 21,000 workers.

Foxx’s record at the State’s Attorney’s office has come into question recently. Aides to Anita Alvarez claim that in Foxx’s 12 years at the State’s Attorney’s office, she only tried one felony case. The Foxx camp has denied these claims.

Donna More is a former federal and state prosecutor who has largely self-funded her campaign. More is focused on making gun violence a top priority and addressing overcrowding at Cook County jail.

More rolled out an extensive TV ad campaign earlier this month. The campaign will be comprised of 700 ads that will “run in targeted cable TV regions of Cook County.”

More addressed the City Club of Chicago last week calling Alvarez "a serial screw-up when it comes to high-profile cases."

The election for the Democratic nomination for Cook County State's Attorney will be held on March 15.

Christopher Pfannkuche will run uncontested on the Republican ballot. Pfannkuche served as a criminal prosecutor for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office for 21 years.

During his tenure he served as a trial supervisor in the Felony Review Unit. Pfannkuche reviewed murder cases, police shootings, press cases, search warrants and a variety of other felony cases. During his 20 years in the Felony Trial Division, Pfannkuche litigated over 2,000 felony cases.

Pfannkuche also served as Head of the Traffic Division in Macon County.

The general election will be held on November 8.

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