Challenger Kim Foxx on Thursday tried to shift the debate in the Democratic race for Cook County state’s attorney away from her campaign’s election law violations and back to what she dubbed the failed leadership of incumbent Anita Alvarez.
“We need a state’s attorney that is going to have good judgment and be a leader of an office of 850 lawyers to set the proper priorities for the office,” Foxx said during a breakfast hosted by the City Club of Chicago, a non-partisan group that hosts forums and debates.
“This current state’s attorney’s executive leadership has been an unequivocal failure. . . . She does not have the judgment and the insight to lead.”
Alvarez dismissed the criticism as more “lies” from a candidate who “has been caught lying repeatedly.”
While speaking to reporters after her address, Foxx downplayed an Illinois State Board of Elections decision handed down Wednesday in which her campaign committee — Friends for Foxx — was deemed to have violated election laws governing transparency by not disclosing a 2015 poll that was paid for by her main political backer and former boss, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Foxx, who previously served as Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, argued that disclosing the poll — which was meant to gauge her viability as a candidate — was not necessary because it was conducted months before she announced her candidacy.
“The state board of elections has made their ruling. We disagree with it and we’re moving on,” Foxx said Thursday, echoing comments released by her campaign manager the previous day.
On Thursday morning, Foxx focused her criticism on Alvarez’s stewardship of the Cook County juvenile justice system.
Kids with discipline issues at school, Foxx said, are too likely to get arrested and end up with a criminal record that will affect their chances of success.
It’s up to the state’s attorney to say “our juvenile justice system is not where we deal with school disciplinary issues,” Foxx said. “We haven’t been doing that.”
After noting that many people are surprised to find out it is a felony for children to fight on school grounds, Foxx said: “I used to fight on school grounds at 3 o’clock . . . if they showed up. I always showed up. Make it be clear Kim Foxx does not run from a fight.
“But can you imagine what happens when you arrest children for fighting on the school grounds? We’re doing it every day here in Cook County.”
Foxx grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing project, which she said plays a central role in her understanding of issues of crime and poverty.
“Ninety-four percent of the kids on our juvenile justice system are African-American and Latino,” she said.
Foxx spent 11 years working in the Cook County state’s attorney’s juvenile division — several of those years under Alvarez — and said the state’s attorney’s office needs to help empower schools to handle discipline issues and fight for school funding that allows teachers to do that.
“I tell people, and people are very surprised . . . how we had to log the convictions of the children that we were prosecuting because this state’s attorney was concerned about convictions over what was happening in the lives of these children,” she said.
The juvenile system too often acts as a conduit to the adult justice system, she said.
Foxx cited a Frederick Douglass quote before offering up another jab at her opponent. “ ‘It is easier for us to build strong children than repair broken men.’ State’s attorney Alvarez has specialized in us repairing broken men instead of building strong children.”
On Thursday afternoon, Alvarez campaign spokesman Mike Carson emailed the following statement from the incumbent prosecutor:
“Kim Foxx has been caught lying repeatedly throughout this campaign regarding her own legal experience, her campaign finances, and in her advertisements, so voters should reject these lies about my record as well.
“As a mother of four and career prosecutor, I have ushered in historic juvenile justice reforms. We’ve made great strides in our juvenile division, which has for years embraced a balanced and restorative justice philosophy, under which first-time or non-violent offenders are diverted from the court process into community-based restorative justice programs.”
Also running in the March 15 Democratic primary is Donna More, a former federal prosecutor.