River Forest's Anita Alvarez woke up Tuesday morning a dark horse in the crowded Democratic primary for the Cook County State's Attorney's office. She went to bed as arguably the front runner in next November's general election.
Tuesday night, surrounded by gleeful supporters and media, Alvarez basked in her new status after beating out five more experienced rivals. Alvarez ran well in both the city and suburbs. With 97 percent of the Chicago and suburban vote counted Wednesday morning, she had roughly 27 percent of the total--233,554 votes--a 10,899 vote lead over Chicago alderman Tom Allen.
Alverez spent a busy Wednesday morning doing interviews with a long list of Chicago print and broadcast media, in between fielding "hundreds" of calls from elected officials throughout Cook County and beyond.
In an interview with WBEZ Radio, Alvarez repeated many of the points she made in a Jan. 23 interview with Wednesday Journal, chief among them that being a prosecutor is a job she does well, is passionate about and enjoys doing. Her contention that people would move into her camp once they heard her message proved correct.
"We've done some polling. I'm in a good spot," she said in January. "The key is to get the message out. Once the voters get educated about me, I'll do very well."
The next state's attorney's attitude toward prosecuting corruption promises to be a major issue in the campaign. Alvarez's general election opponent, Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, who had no opposition in the Republican primary, is clearly ready to get his message out as well. Peraica has pounded on the issue of government corruption in the county, saying he'll make investigating and prosecuting it a top priority.
Wednesday morning his campaign manager, Curt Mercadante, hammered Alvarez on that issue, saying, "The state's attorney office has long built a reputation of turning a blind eye to public corruption. Anita Alvarez--especially since she boasts of heading the Public Integrity Unit--was a big part of this well deserved reputation."
"The Public Integrity Unit was out to lunch," he said.
Mercadante also accused Alvarez of being an agent of the status quo who sought, but didn't receive the endorsement of outgoing state's attorney Richard Devine.
Alvarez, though, reiterated her position that violent crime was the core mission of the states attorney's office, telling WBEZ, "It's clear the voters want their children to be safe, going to school, the park, to church."
Alvarez acknowledged corruption was an issue, saying, "That's not to say that corruption isn't important." Calling herself "The only person who's tried and convicted police officers," Alvarez said, "I think our office could be a little more proactive in these cases, and I'd be committed to do it."
Echoing Alvarez's comments, Mercadante conceded that "the best candidate doesn't always win, and agreed that getting their message out will be key. As for Alvarez's ethnicity, Mercadante said that was a positive, but also noted that 73 percent of Democratic primary voters did not vote for her.
Alvarez expressed confidence that her message will continue to resonate with voters.
"I think we'll do fine against Tony," she told WBEZ. "I'll continue to stick to my message."