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Alvarez get Democrat nod for Cook County state's attorney
By Rob Olmstead | Daily Herald Staff

Anita Alvarez talks about her victory.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/6/2008 1:07 AM | Updated: 2/6/2008 11:05 AM

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Squeaking out a victory in a race in which many had written her off, Anita Alvarez became the first woman and the first Latino to win the Democratic nomination for Cook County state's attorney Tuesday.

But Alvarez downplayed the significance of those two milestones, saying she hoped voters chose her for her qualifications, not her demographics.

"Those things maybe enhanced my candidacy, but my qualifications, I believe, are what won the voters over," said a jubilant Alvarez at her victory party at the Renaissance Hotel in Chicago. "We knew the key was to get our message out, and if we got our message out, the voters were going to respond."

Patton Price, spokesman for Tom Allen, Alvarez's closest competitor, acknowledged, "She's the party's candidate and we're getting behind her."

Allen gave his concession speech around 10:15 p.m., when Alvarez led by little more than a percentage point with 85 percent of the precincts counted.

With 90.3 percent of precincts reporting, the total stood at: Tom Allen, 24.8 percent; Anita Alvarez, 26.1 percent; Howard Brookins, 17.6 percent, Larry Suffredin, 22.4 percent, Bob Milan, 5.8 percent and Tommy Brewer, 3.4 percent.

Unlike years past, the race for state's attorney was wide open with no clear leader right up to Election Day.

That's primarily because, after current Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine announced his retirement, Democratic Party leaders did not slate a candidate because they could not agree on one.

Early on, Brookins was seen as the candidate to beat because of his formidable support in the black community. But Alvarez and Suffredin made concerted efforts to chip away at that base by raising concerns about Brookins' commitment to child-support enforcement.

They pointed to the fact that Brookins had been temporarily found in civil contempt of court for not paying his child's medical expenses. The dispute had been quickly resolved and the contempt ruling lifted, but Alvarez and Suffredin accused Brookins of having to be legally badgered into honoring his obligations. They said that reflected poorly on his commitment to enforcing child support obligations as head prosecutor.

Suffredin, as the apparent leader, became the next target. His challengers questioned whether his extensive connections as a lobbyist would be a conflict if he ever had to prosecute anyone he knew through lobbying.

Allen enjoyed significant support from police and union groups, but opponents noted he had never been a prosecutor.

Milan and Alvarez, the only candidates currently in the prosecutor's office, tried to portray that experience as a plus, but Allen and others used it to criticize them, questioning the office's commitment to going after public corruption and police brutality.

Alvarez compensated by seeking the women's vote, emphasizing her motherhood in TV ads while still showcasing her tough record against crime.

Alvarez now faces Tony Peraica, the Republican candidate for state's attorney. He was unopposed in the primary.

The three major daily newspapers split their endorsements in the Democratic field, with the Tribune backing Allen, the Sun-Times endorsing Suffredin and the Daily Herald recommending Alvarez.