Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle helped push Cook County Democrats to meet next week to decide whether to switch gears and endorse a candidate for Cook County state’s attorney after all.
In August, the party decided to remain neutral in what has become a contentious race as Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has come under fire over her handling of police-involved shootings.
For Alvarez, the neutrality was considered the best she could have hoped for, since ward and township committeemen were too divided to back her outright.
But after requests from Preckwinkle and other ward and township committeemen, the organization has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Alvarez blasted the change of plans as the backroom dealings of “the Cook County Machine” trying to slate a candidate it could control.
All three candidates — Alvarez and challengers Kim Foxx and Donna More — will appear and present information to the committeemen.
“All 80 committeemen will decide whether or not to endorse one of them or continue with no endorsement,” Cook County Democratic Party Executive Director Jacob Kaplan said Friday.
Preckwinkle, an executive vice chairman of the party organization, is backing Foxx, her former chief of staff. Preckwinkle was not immediately available for comment, but she has been sharply critical of Alvarez, calling her stewardship of the state’s attorney’s office “disgraceful.”
Alvarez made it clear in a statement Friday she has no illusions she will receive the party’s nod.
“It’s been clear for some time that the Machine has picked its candidate in this race,” Alvarez said.
“I am a career prosecutor, not a career politician. My independence has never made me a favorite of the party bosses and they didn’t endorse me in my first election, so it’s not surprising to me that they think another candidate will better serve their interests.
“But this campaign has never been about slatemakers and backroom meetings. Voters do not want the State’s Attorney’s office controlled by the Cook County Machine, and I look forward to taking my message of reform and tougher gun laws directly to the voters of Cook County.”
Kaplan said the decision to reconsider an endorsement was made on Thursday during an executive meeting.
Kaplan said “quite a few” committeemen, including Preckwinkle, requested the meeting. He called the party’s revisiting of an endorsement “unusual.”
“But it’s been an unusual cycle. We revisited the Clerk of the Circuit Court. It’s been a crazy cycle,” Kaplan said.
In November, the Cook County Democratic Party withdrew its primary endorsement of Dorothy Brown, the longtime clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court. This came amid the seizure of her cell phone by federal authorities. She has not been charged with a crime, however.
In December, the Thornton Township Democratic Committee — which includes 17 municipalities — endorsed Foxx for state’s attorney. Foxx, a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney and chief of staff to Preckwinkle picked up the endorsements of the SEIU Illinois State Council; U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, and several prominent Chicago black aldermen, among others.
Alvarez is backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Edward Burke (14th).
More, a former federal prosecutor and Illinois Gaming Board attorney, officially launched her campaign for state’s attorney on Wednesday. She has the support of several prominent former judges, prosecutors and attorneys, including African-American criminal defense attorney Sam Adam Jr., whose stand with More has raised eyebrows among African-American community leaders supporting Foxx.