River Forest’s Anita Alvarez woke up Tuesday morning a dark horse candidate in a crowded Democratic primary for Cook County state’s attorney. She went to bed arguably as the front-runner in next November’s general election.

She now squares off with Riverside attorney and Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

Alvarez ran surprisingly well, garnering strong vote totals in both the city and suburbs, tallying roughly 27 percent of the total-233,554 votes-10,899 more than her nearest competitor, Chicago Alderman Tom Allen. Alvarez won River Forest, taking 12 of 15 precincts to Allen’s two, and tying with Larry Suffredin in another. Suffredin took all 58 precincts in Oak Park, with Alvarez second and Allen a close third.

Alvarez spent a busy Wednesday morning doing interviews with a long list of Chicago print and broadcast media, and fielding what campaign manager Sally Daly termed “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 being that prosecutor is a job she does well, is passionate about, and enjoys. 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.”

Peraica, though, wasted no time attacking her record and questioning her motives. Peraica, who has made it clear he will make investigating and prosecuting local government corruption a top priority, lambasted Alvarez for being an insider in an office that’s done little to attack such corruption.

“The state’s attorney’s office has long built a reputation of turning a blind eye to public corruption,” campaign manager Curt Mercadante said Wednesday. “Anita Alvarez-especially since she boasts of heading the Public Integrity Unit-was a big part of this well-deserved reputation.” Mercadante 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 in the primary. Devine has since endorsed her in the general election.

“She also reported to the media this week that she expects to get the support of her party’s “power brokers,” scoffed Mercadante. “So much for independence.”

Alvarez appeared on Chicago Tonight and agreed to a future televised debate with Peraica. She reiterated her position that violent crime was the core mission of the state’s attorney’s office, telling WBEZ, “It’s clear the voters want their children to be safe, going to school, the park, to church.”

“That’s not to say that corruption isn’t important,” she added, calling herself “the only person who’s tried and convicted police officers,” Alvarez said, “I think our office could be a little more pro-active in these cases, and I’d be committed to do it.”

Mercadante acknowledged that Alvarez’s Hispanic background would be a positive for her, but also noted that 73 percent of Democratic primary voters did not vote for her.

“I think we’ll do fine against Tony,” Alvarez told WBEZ. “I’ll continue to stick to my message.”

Both candidates have invested heavily in their campaigns. The Peraica campaign, which did not need to expend resources producing and airing television ads, reported spending $101,542.27 during the last six months of 2007. He has since raised over $170,000 in donations. Peraica lists nearly $1,500,000 in personal loans to his campaign fund through June, 2006, including a $506,567 second mortgage on his Riverside home.

Alvarez, who had $41,259.84 on hand Dec. 31, 2007, receive $18,700 in contributions in January, as well as a $600,000 loan from her husband. That money was reportedly used to pay for producing and airing political ads.

Vote totals

CANDIDATE Suburbs Chicago Total

Anita Alvarez 101,592 131,962 233,554

Tom Allen 99,024 123,631 222,655

Larry Suffredin 95,355 105,083 200,438

Howard Brookins 44,754 117,984 162,638

Robert J. Milan 26,545 26,047 52,592

Tommy Brewer 10,504 20,075 30,579

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