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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin endorses Kim Foxx for state’s attorney

“Between her 12 years as a prosecutor and her time championing progressive reforms, Kim Foxx is more than ready to lead the state’s attorney’s office and restore faith in our justice system,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is endorsing Kim Foxx for Cook County state’s attorney in the March 15 Democratic primary, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator and a leading voice in federal criminal justice reform efforts, said he views Foxx as the best choice to rebuild trust in the office that incumbent Anita Alvarez seeks to hold onto.

“Between her 12 years as a prosecutor and her time championing progressive reforms, Kim Foxx is more than ready to lead the state’s attorney’s office and restore faith in our justice system,” Durbin said Thursday, hailing Foxx for what he described as her commitment to a holistic approach to transforming the county’s troubled justice system.

The key endorsement follows a trove of endorsements of Foxx — from key Democrats in the U.S. Congress, including Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, to all the region’s major newspapers — over Alvarez and third candidate, Donna More.

“Sen. Durbin has been fighting on behalf of Cook County voters for decades. I am pleased to receive his endorsement, and I look forward to working with him to advocate for sensible reforms in our criminal justice system,” Foxx said.

Durbin, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1996 and has championed key federal criminal justice reform legislation, was most recently re-elected in 2014 by a margin of 10 percent statewide and won 73 percent of the vote in Cook County.

Alvarez has come under tough criticism from the minority community over alleged bias in her office’s handling of police misconduct cases in the wake of the video showing the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who pumped 16 bullets into the teen. Van Dyke was not charged by Alvarez until a judge ordered the video released this past November.

Alvarez also has been under fire for having to fire a prosecutor for lying in a case involving a Chicago police officer; for the failed prosecution of Police Officer Dante Servin in the killing of a young black woman, Rekia Boyd; and for her office’s botched investigation into the 2004 killing of David Koschman in a Rush Street area altercation with Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko that required a special prosecutor.

The Alvarez campaign dismissed the Durbin endorsement.

“This is what it looks like when the Cook County Machine is lined up against you. Kim Foxx can stand with the politicians she will answer to. Anita Alvarez will stand with voters and victims of crime,” said Alvarez Campaign Manager Mike Carson.

In the last week, Foxx also picked up the endorsement of former Gov. Pat Quinn, who had endorsed Alvarez when she first ran in 2008. Alvarez is backed by two of the state’s most powerful political operators, House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago and Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who have donated to her past campaigns and are backing her again.

Foxx is a former assistant state’s attorney who most recently worked as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s chief of staff. She was instrumental in Preckwinkle’s effort to lower the jail population and reform the juvenile justice system.

More, an assistant in the state’s attorney’s office under Richard M. Daley, is a former federal prosecutor who became the first chief legal counsel for the Illinois Gaming Board after its 1990 formation. A campaign contributor to Gov. Bruce Rauner, More is strongly supported by Republicans.