Former Gov. Pat Quinn was defeated in his 2014 bid for re-election and left office more than a year ago.
Yet he emerged over the weekend as the latest point of contention in the bitter race for Cook County state’s attorney, prompting the candidates to trade another round of attacks over their reform credentials and political ties.
At a press event Sunday morning, Quinn announced his endorsement of challenger Kim Foxx in the March 15 Democratic primary, calling her “a strong voice for reform and justice for all.”
“She has the integrity and ability to serve the people of Cook County well as their state’s attorney,” the former governor said.
The Foxx campaign touted Quinn’s backing as a sign of their “broad coalition” of support to bring reforms to the state’s attorney’s office and local criminal justice system. Quinn has been “a champion for years of the social justice issues that Kim has pushed,” Foxx campaign spokesman Robert Foley said.
Quinn’s backing of Foxx was also a clear rejection of two-term incumbent Anita Alvarez, whom he had endorsed in 2008. She returned the favor during his successful 2010 election bid.
But Alvarez’s campaign quickly issued a statement ripping Quinn as a “career politician” and noting that he had previously received campaign donations from Foxx’s political patron and former boss, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Preckwinkle sent $52,500 to Quinn in 2014, state records show. Foxx served as Preckwinkle’s chief of staff until jumping into the state’s attorney’s race.
“To the surprise of no one, career politician Pat Quinn, who has been the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands in campaign spending by Toni Preckwinkle, is now backing her political puppet Kim Foxx,” Mike Carson, campaign manager for Alvarez, said in the statement.
The Alvarez campaign also made it clear they didn’t expect support from Quinn, given that two years ago Alvarez announced a criminal investigation into an anti-violence program run by his administration.
The scandals around the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative badly damaged Quinn’s re-election effort. On Sunday the Alvarez campaign circulated a 2014 Chicago Sun-Times story on the state’s attorney’s inquiry.
That got the Foxx campaign to fire another shot. “Anita Alvarez is continuing her desperate, false attacks because she’s trying to deflect from her record of failure,” said Foley.
The other challenger in the race, former Cook County and federal prosecutor Donna More, said she assumes Quinn wants Preckwinkle’s help with a return to politics. She argued the state’s attorney’s office should look into “pay to play” politics in Cook County government.
“I think that would be a great public corruption investigation,” More said.
More also questioned whether Alvarez did anything with the inquiry into Quinn’s anti-violence program other than generate headlines.
“She allegedly started an investigation on this Quinn slush fund,” More said. “That was four years ago. I’ve never heard anything else about it.”
More characterized that inquiry as another example — along with investigations into the police shootings of Laquan McDonald and Rekia Boyd — of Alvarez failing to be transparent or pursue justice in a timely manner. “People don’t trust her to do the right thing,” More said.
Alvarez says her office gave federal authorities the evidence it collected on Quinn’s program and she can’t comment further.
The state’s attorney has butted heads with Preckwinkle for years over policies in the Cook County criminal courts and jail. And in January, when Preckwinkle orchestrated the slating of Foxx by the county Democratic Party, Alvarez attacked the “machine” and questioned Foxx’s integrity.
But while she fires away at Foxx’s support from insiders, Alvarez enjoys the backing of two of the state’s most powerful political operators: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Chicago Ald. Ed Burke. Both have donated to her past campaigns and are backing her again.
“She’s been independent,” said Carson. “She has some folks who endorse her despite that.”