Cook Co. state's attorney primary up for grabs

February 5, 2008 3:57:50 PM PST
One of the most watched local contests will be the Democratic race for Cook County state's attorney. Six Democratic candidates are on the ballot seeking the party's nomination. The winner will face Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, who is uncontested in the Republican primary.

There aren't many races where the candidates are so evenly qualified and there isn't a clear front runner.

This is an interesting race that would normally have gotten more attention, but the presidential campaigns have stolen the thunder of many local races. Regardless, candidates for state's attorney are campaigning to the end.

Candidates for Cook County state's attorney tried and make last minute appeals to passersby. The campaigning and debating has been vigorous for the seat. Many of the candidates were voting Tuesday morning.

One candidate in Evanston encountered some of the same problems other voters encountered and waited 20 minutes to cast his vote. A delay in voting is nothing compared to the drama that may unfold Tuesday night with some calling the race for state's attorney a free for all.

Political science professor Paul Green says this race could go to almost any of the six candidates, depending on who comes out to vote.

"I could think of three or four scenarios by which one candidate could win. In other words, I could give you a scenario for four candidates, how he or she could win. So that's why it's kind of interesting," Green said. "My hunch is there will be a lot of people taking a Democratic ballot for the first time, and they don't know any of these candidates for state's attorney. They will either pick and choose based on name or they may just skip it."

Three elected officials want the top prosecutor's spot. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin was endorsed by the Sun-Times. Alderman Tom Allen got the Tribune's endorsement and union backing. Alderman Howard Brookins tried to capture voters' attention by aligning himself with Barrack Obama.

And two current prosecutors are looking to take over for their boss. Anita Alvarez is a Cook County assistant state's attorney. And Bob Milan, who got the endorsement of his boss, Dick Devine, is first assistant.

Rounding out the six candidates, defense attorney Tommy Brewer is making a second attempt at this seat.

"You really have a contest, a legitimate contest with four or five people who have a shot at winning, so, we don't have many of those. And they all come from different sides of the spectrum," said Green.

Another unusual aspect of this race is the tone of the candidates. Traditionally, anyone running for prosecutor would have talked about being tough on crime and going after criminals. But many of the messages have included fighting police corruption, giving victims a voice and making the judicial system fair for all.