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Ward Room Campaign Round-Up: Campaign Season Kicks Into High Gear

Ward Room's Campaign Round-Up is a weekly post dedicated to keeping voters informed about the state and county's upcoming 2016 elections. Check the Ward Room blog for continued coverage every Wednesday.

State’s Attorney

Incumbent Anita Alvarez faces former Assistant State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and former federal and state prosecutor Donna More in the March 15 Democratic primary for Cook County State’s Attorney.

Alvarez received a $2,500 donation from Kathleen Zellner this week. Zellner is an attorney who has represented the wrongfully accused in criminal and civil courts.

In 2013, Alvarez set aside a murder conviction of one of Zellner’s clients, citing lack of evidence.

Alvarez will speak at the City Club of Chicago Wednesday.

Challenger Kim Foxx released a TV ad this week attacking Alvarez’s handling of the Laquan McDonald case. The ad includes dash-cam footage of the incident.

“When State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez did nothing about this murder, she proved our justice system is broken,” the ad says.

McDonald was shot and killed by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke in October of 2014. Alvarez did not file murder charges against Van Dyke until November of 2015 as dash-cam footage of the incident was being made public.

The Alvarez team responded, calling the ad insensitive and unfounded.

"Leaving aside the craven exploitation of using the video of a murder victim in a campaign ad, the content is demonstrably false,” Alvarez spokesperson Mike Carson told Ward Room. “Foxx has been caught telling lies and violating campaign finance laws, and this ad is just another piece of evidence that proves Kim Foxx is a liar who can not be trusted.”

Foxx’s campaign defended the ad in a statement to Ward Room.

“We want to make sure Cook County voters know what’s at stake in this critical election,” Foxx spokesperson Robert Foley said. “Anita Alvarez failed to take action for 400 days after the murder of Laquan McDonald.”

Foxx earned an endorsement from the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board this week.

"We are endorsing Kim Foxx, a former chief of staff to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, over incumbent State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez,” the endorsement read. “In a contentious race, Foxx has made clear she understands what this election is all about: Restoring faith in the state’s attorney’s office.”

Foxx also scored a rare endorsement from the Chicago Teacher’s Union and an endorsement from Rep. Mike Quigley.

Foxx contributed $40,000 to the Democratic party in Cook County which handles get-out-the-vote efforts.

Foxx also received a $15,000 contribution from attorney Arthur Loevy. Loevy’s firm has handled many federal police misconduct cases.

Donna More’s campaign received $1,000 from her former boss as a federal prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukis.

More also continued to finance her own campaign, donating $80,000 for mailers and consulting from David Axelreod’s former firm, AKPD Message & Media.

Christopher Pfannkuche will run uncontested on the Republican ticket.

Illinois senate race

U.S. Senate, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Urban League CEO and President Andrea Zopp and state Sen. Napoleon Harris will face off in the March 15 primary for the Democratic nomination for Mark Kirk's U.S. Senate seat.

The three squared off in a televised debate last Friday. During the debate, Zopp claimed her opponents in the democratic Senate primary are not doing enough to embolden the state.

"I have taken steps over 30 years to save lives, create jobs, grow businesses — something [Harris] can't say," Zopp said. "So, neither has Congresswoman Duckworth. No specifics about any actions that either of you have taken to make a real difference in this state."

Zopp also called on Duckworth to engage in further debates leading up to the primary. Zopp claims downstate voters also deserve a debate.

"Congresswoman Duckworth doesn't want to do any more debates because she's done very little for the people of Illinois," Zopp said.

Duckworth rebuffed these appeals, claiming no additional debates were needed. Duckworth, Zopp and Harris have previously faced off in editorial board endorsement sessions at the Tribune and Sun-Times.

"We're debating now and we have debated at least a couple of times already in the last couple of weeks," Duckworth said.

Nonetheless, Zopp's camp released a statement Sunday attacking Duckworth's record while urging her to engage in an additional debate on African-American issues.

"If you look at her record, particularly on the issues that matter to working families, and specifically, to the issues that matter to the African American community, like job creation, criminal justice reform and gun control, Congresswoman Duckworth been silent during her time in Congress," Zopp said. "Her interests in the issues that matter in our community isn’t driven by the fact that she actually wants to get things done, they are driven by political calculation. Yet, she won’t come and talk to us about these issues."

Duckworth has not addressed Zopp's claims throughout the debates. However, her camp did issue a statement regarding Zopp's appeals for additional debates.

"We were pleased with the opportunity to participate in three substantive debates, and are looking forward to spending the final three weeks of the campaign traveling around the state and talking directly with Illinois voters," Duckworth spokesman Matt McGrath said in the statement. “If Ms. Zopp failed to make her points to her own satisfaction over the course of three well-covered debates, she has no one to blame but herself.”

During the debate, Duckworth called into question Zopp's tenure as a member of the Chicago Board of Education. During that time, 50 Chicago Public Schools were closed and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett became embroiled in a kickback scandal. Byrd-Bennet later pled guilty to a federal public corruption charge.

Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost her legs during the Iraq War, promised to continue supporting veterans' issues. Duckworth previously served in the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I will spend the rest of my life fighting for veterans issues," Duckworth said. "We are all dishonored when a veteran must lay down his head on the very same streets that he defended."

Zopp countered, claiming Duckworth had not acted on some key issues. Zopp claims Duckworth did not create a state-mandated task force to track Gulf War syndrome and that she failed to address long wait times for medical services for veterans.

Zopp cited an "epidemic of inaction" in Washington during Duckworth's tenure and asked, "are you going to send somebody to Washington who's going to talk, because talk is cheap."

Duckworth also fired shots at incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk. She claims Kirk "has been wrong on every issue of national security since he's been in the House of Representatives."

Duckworth specifically questioned Kirk's handling of the Islamic State, claiming he "wants to provide ISIS with new recruits," as result of his policies on Syrian refugees.

This followed Duckworth’s comments at a Chicago Tribune Editorial Board endorsement session wherein she insinuated that Kirk’s policies encouraged radicalized Iraqi refugees in Texas.

Harris continued to be a non-factor during the debates.

According to a poll conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies between Feb. 4-7, Duckworth received 64 percent of votes while Zopp received 6 percent and Harris received 3 percent.

The poll was conducted for Harris.

An additional poll, conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, found Duckworth receiving 52 percent of votes from self-identified Democrats with Zopp receiving 6 percent and Harris receiving 4 percent.

In the Republican field. Kirk received 53 percent of votes from likely Republican voters, while Oswego businessman James Marter received 14 percent of votes. 33 percent of respondents remained undecided.

Duckworth released a campaign ad Tuesday touting her military and political experience.

Harris made a TV appearance in an effort to bolster support, touting his bipartisan efforts in the state senate.

Republican incumbent Mark Kirk penned two op-ed pieces this week.

In his piece in the Chicago Sun-Times Monday, Kirk broke with Republican lawmakers to support President Barack Obama moving forward with the process to nominate a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia as the ninth member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"As a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserve and as a United States senator, I swore an oath to protect and uphold the constitution," he wrote. "That oath is to our constitution, not to a party or any one individual, but to the ideals that bind our nation. I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider."

In his piece in the National Review, also published Monday, Kirk addressed Muslim extremism and condemned Tammy Duckworth’s statements about his encouraging radicalization through his policies.

“Tammy Duckworth is a fool,” Kirk wrote. “She says I am the reason terrorists become radicalized. This is another example of how Duckworth sees the world through a delusional, partisan lens, willfully ignorant of what motivates the enemy and threatens our safety as Americans.”

Kirk cited ISIS’ initiative to create a global caliphate, ruled by Sharia law, as reason for radicalization.

Kirk also expounded on the U.S.’s need to secure borders.

Kirk also released a campaign ad to reinforce his ideas on the matter, slamming Duckworth’s plan to bring 200,000 refugees to the country.

The ad claims ISIS used fake Syrian passports to stage the attack on Paris and that the terrorist group continues to print these passports. The ad also highlight 15 terror-related incidents involving refugees.

“Mark Kirk is leading the charge to stop refugees until it can be done safely,” the ad says.

Kirk will face Marter in the March 15 Republican primary.

8th congressional district

Krishnamoorthi will face state Sen. Mike Noland and Villa Park Mayor Deb Bullwinkel in the March 15 Democratic primary.

Krishnamoorthi, the Democratic front-runner for Tammy Duckworth’s soon the be vacated 8th District House seat, released a campaign ad Tuesday in an effort to drum up further support.

In the ad, Krishnamoorthi claims “I have a long name and a short time to introduce myself.”

The ad highlights Krishnamoorthi’s record and policies. This includes his role as issues director for President Barack Obama’s successful 2004 U.S. Senate campaign and his stances on protecting medicare and social security, equal pay for equal work and strengthening gun control.

DuPage County Commissioner Pete DiCianni will run unopposed on the Republican ticket.

Bill Fraser, an independent, will appear on the ballot for the general election.

10th congressional district

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering will face former Rep. Brad Schneider in the Democratic primary for incumbent Bob Dold’s 10th District House seat.

Rotering received an endorsement from Sen. Dick Durbin this week, while Schneider received an endorsement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC.

“BOLD PAC is proud to give Brad Schneider our endorsement,” PAC Chair Tony Cardenas said. “I worked side by side with Brad in Congress and, with my fellow colleagues, I know him to be a proven leader dedicated to being a champion for issues important to the Latino community.”

According to an internal memo from his campaign, Schneider holds a commanding lead over Rotering.

“Schneider leads 53%-23% with just three weeks to go until primary day,” the memo says. “He bests her among every constituency and in every region of the district. Among women, he leads 52%-26%. Among pro-choice voters, he leads 55%-24%. Among liberals, he leads 55%-23%.”

Dold is running unopposed on the Republican ballot.

Rotering and Schneider will face off in the March 15 Democratic primary.

The general election is set for Nov. 8. 

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