By Kim Bellware, Huffington Post and other sources
Chicago’s States Attorney Anita Alvarez was ousted in the Democratic primary Tuesday night by challenger Kim Foxx (D), who now eyes a November bid for the role of top prosecutor of the nation’s second-largest county.
Foxx, 43, triumphed thanks to a wave of support and heavy organization from anti-discrimination and anti-police brutality groups in Chicago, many of which are affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives.
“The people have spoken and we’ve sent a clear message to Chicago’s elected officials,” said one activist after Alvarez’s defeat. “That those who are deaf to our cries and unsympathetic to our needs will be unseated due to a wave of mass mobilization come November.”
Foxx was among those who criticized Alvarez’s handling of the Laquan McDonald case — including the decision to wait more than 13 months to bring murder charges against the Chicago cop who was seen on camera shooting the teenaged McDonald.
In October 2014, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke allegedly shot the 17-year-old in the back 16 times. Neither Van Dyke nor any other officer on the scene was charged for the incident until a police video of the incident was made public last November, (over a year later) leading Chicago residents to criticize Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago police superintendent Garry F. McCarthy for the way they handled the case.
Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez also came under fire for waiting 400 days before filing charges against Van Dyke, and on Tuesday, Cook County voters made their displeasure known by denying Alvarez a third term in office.
“The public has to hold feet to the fire on these issues. And Anita Alvarez’s feet have not been held to the fire,” Foxx said in an interview with the Chicago Reader.
The Chicago native’s history was also undeniably powerful: Raised in the now-demolished Cabrini-Green projects, Foxx fought through homelessness in high school to make it to college and then law school. She spent 12 years as a prosecutor in the Cook County States Attorney’s office, eventually working under Alvarez.
Foxx has said she was initially inspired by Alvarez, who held the role as Cook County’s top prosecutor since 2008, when she was the first woman and first Latina to score the Democratic nomination. But as those feelings gave way to disappointment, Foxx moved on to become chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, considered the most powerful Chicagoan, according to Chicago Magazine — and a noted Alvarez foe.
Alvarez handily won her previous re-election bids, but her pattern of harsh prosecution of youth offenders — which made Cook County among the leaders for juvenile life without parole sentences — and low rate of prosecuting police misconduct eventually drew the ire of those hoping for progressive reform.
Alvarez lost by a landslide to Kim Foxx, a former chief of staff to Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle. At the time the race was called — with 82 percent of precincts reporting — Foxx was up by more than 20 percent.
Her loss comes the day after the Daily Beast released a review that found Alvarez had “declined to file charges against Chicago police officers involved in the fatal shootings of at least 68 people in the last seven years,” although no documentation was available to explain why she decided not to file charges.
Although Alvarez had more experience than either of her opponents, her involvement in this and other controversial cases stripped her of the Democratic Party’s support — activists rallied against her on Twitter using the hashtag #ByeAnita.
Tom Balanoff, Illinois state council president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said that Foxx’s victory was “a decisive vote for transparency and the reform of [the state’s] broken criminal justice system.” He went on, “We will continue our fight to eradicate the economic, social and racial inequality that currently plagues our state.”