By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
The anger resonated from the South Side to the northern suburbs Tuesday night as voters sent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez packing as political novice Kim Foxx won the Democratic nomination for the office after getting 58 percent of the vote to Alvarez’s 29.
The victory for Foxx, 43, was a no-brainer. After months of protests demanding Alvarez’s resignation for her handling of several high-profile police shootings, she became a symbol of what was wrong with the justice system in the county. With her victory, Foxx said it is now time to move forward in fixing the broken criminal justice system.
“The work here is just beginning, and our struggles here are very real,” Foxx told supporters during her victory rally in the River North neighborhood. “…We need to rebuild a broken criminal justice system in Cook County, it is not a position to be taken lightly. It is work that is going to take the cooperation and collaboration of stakeholders in all areas. Our young folks have shown up and demanded justice for all of us.”
Foxx based her campaign off of representing those who felt they have no voice in society. She said when growing up as a child in public housing, she often felt as if she was not being heard. She said her unique background will bring a different perspective to the job.
But, it was not just young African-American voters who turned out for Foxx; many were enraged by Alvarez’s office handling of the Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald cases. Foxx received a lot of votes in suburban Cook County as well. She doubled the total votes of Alvarez and had five times the votes of third-place finisher Donna More.
“The stakes in this race were very high,” Foxx said. “I want to be clear that in the midst of all the jubilance that this race is not so much about saying good-bye; it’s about turning the page. Let us not get lost in the gravity of the work that is ahead of us.”
For her part, Alvarez said she has ensured Foxx there will be a smooth transition should Foxx defeat Christopher Pfannkuche in the general election.
In front of a small group of supporters during her speech at the Palmer House, Alvarez continued to be in denial. She claimed she was a good prosecutor, but not a good politician. She made no mention of her prosecutorial decisions to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder 14 months after he killed McDonald or incorrectly charging Det. Dante Servin in the Boyd case, which led to a judge setting him free.
Greeting and thanking voters Wednesday morning at downtown’s Millennium Station, Foxx said her office will serve all communities. She said combating Chicago’s illegal gun trade will be one of her top priorities because it is where much of the violence in the city stems from.
“I think we have to aggressively go after people who are having guns that are not supposed to,” Foxx said. “We are going to partner more with federal law enforcement while also pushing for lawmakers in Springfield to look at the punishment for people that have illegal guns and people who participate in the trading of illegal guns.”
In other races of note, Congressman Bobby Rush (D-1st) easily fended off his first realistic challenge in years by defeating Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins (21st). The two former political allies became quite snippy with one another during the campaign, highlighted by
a 10-minute shouting match on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” with Carol Marin. But on election night, Rush dominated Brookins getting 71 percent of the vote to Brookins 19. Patrick Brutus got nine percent.
For Rush, who was first elected to Congress in 1993, the race was the closest he has had since he was challenged by then-State Senator Barack Obama. Much of the heated confrontations between Rush and Brookins revolved around Brookins trying to have Rush removed from the ballot back in December. Brookins challenged Rush’s petitions. While many were found to be false, he still had enough to remain on the ballot.
“This campaign started with them saying, ‘We got him!’” said a jubilant Rush, taking a jab at his opponent. “Well, I’m here—look at me now!”
Brookins barely won re-election to office last year as an alderman. He attacked Rush throughout the campaign claiming he had become a “do-nothing congressman” in the district. Brookins and Rush also had several heated exchanges surrounding the Vivian Harsh Collection at the Carter G. Woodson Library, which is in need of dire repairs. The library is located in Brookins’ ward, and Rush’s district with both men claiming the other should have gotten the dollars necessary to do the repairs.
For the second time in a row, Christian Mitchell defeated Jay Travis for state representative in the 26th District. With 97 percent of the votes counted, Mitchell held a 3,000 vote lead over Travis, who was heavily backed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union. Mitchell has been a strong proponent for charter schools. Two years ago, he defeated Travis by only 600 votes. This time, he believes the voters heard only rhetoric from Travis and not a platform.
“My vision is an optimistic one, and that’s what we need in Illinois,” Mitchell said.
However, Travis said she was hurt by technical issues at the polls for the second time. She said two years ago there were problems with the voting machines in some precincts. This time, she said the wrong ballots were being distributed. She has reported the issue to the Illinois State Board of Elections and to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
“I think voter suppression continues to be the problem in my races against Mr. Mitchell,” Travis said. “If it happens once then that’s one thing but twice? We plan on investigating this matter until the very end.”