State's Attorney candidates meet in forum

January 27, 2008 9:35:55 PM PST
One of the closely watched races on the ballot in Cook County is the race for Cook County state's attorney. Six Democrats and one Republican are vying to replace Dick Devine, who is retiring.

With everyone's eyes set on the presidential primary, most voters have overlooked this very important race for Cook County state's attorney. Sunday, several events involving the candidates were held, including a forum at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side, in which all seven candidates answered questions as to how they would run the office.

"We need a state's attorney who is independent and not beholden to city hall or Mayor Daley or Todd Stroger, county board president, or Governor Blagojevich, but who will apply justice across the board without regard to politics," said the lone Republican candidate Tony Peraica.

The rest of the candidates are Democrats. At stake is the party's nomination to seek a $100 million office with more than 900 lawyers and the power to launch investigations, issue subpoenas and convene grand juries. Because of recent scandals involving police brutality, the biggest issue is the need to regain public trust.

"Young assistant state's attorneys often become an extension of the police department rather than an independent office that is supposed to be protecting our constitutional rights," said candidate Larry Suffredin.

"We can lead by example. We can show people that we will follow the evidence wherever it leads us; that no one is above or below the law," said Alderman Howard Brookins.

"The prosecutors that are running for this office and bragging about their experience, look at the train wreck they have left us. So, if they're going to fix things, why didn't they fix it when they were in office," said Tom Allen, who is running for the office, as well.

"In the last elections, all my opponents supported Dick Divine. Now, they want to be agents for change. That's not true. I have a history of working for change," candidate Tom Allen told ABC7 Chicago.

The only two candidates not criticizing the Cook County state's attorney's office are the ones who currently work inside it. They are stressing experience and the lack of a political agenda as their main selling points.

"[I am] the only prosecutor in the country who took on wrongful convinctions and false confessions and put together training programs. No other candidate can say they did that," Robert Milan said.

"I'm a career prosecutor, not a politician. I have spent 21 years in this office speaking on behalf of the victims of crime," said Anita Alvarez.

This is the first time in 40 years an incumbent Cook County state's attorney is not seeking re-election.