Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blared from the speakers at the beginning of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s election night event, audible to the quiet, near-empty room filled mostly with press and campaign workers.
This scene would foreshadow Alvarez’s impending defeat at the hands of challenger Kim Foxx, who crushed the incumbent by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in a race that was supposed to be close.
Instead, it was over before 9 p.m. as Alvarez offered her concession in front of around 50 supporters at the Palmer House Hilton.
“Tonight did not turn out the way we expected it to turn out, but I’ve been honored to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney for the past eight years and more importantly, honored to be an assistant state’s attorney for more than 29 years, serving the victims of crime in Cook County,” Alvarez said. “I know that when I went into court as a young prosecutor putting my name on the record on behalf of the people of the State of Illinois, I was there speaking on behalf of people who have gone through some horrific, traumatic experiences. And I know that I did that from my heart and have always done this job with the interest of all victims in mind at all times.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Last month, polls had Alvarez leading slightly. While a lot were undecided, it appeared like it would at least be close.
“We’re obviously really disappointed. This was a hard-fought campaign. Anita’s been a state’s attorney for almost 30 years now,” said campaign manager Mike Carson. “She’s devoted her life to being a prosecutor; it’s her passion, its what she loves to do. Going forward, she’s going to be committed to ensuring that we have a smooth transition that the victims of crime in Cook County deserve.”
In her brief remarks, Alvarez did not congratulate Foxx on her win, but ensured a smooth transition and defended her record in the state’s attorney’s office.
“I get criticized that I wasn’t a very good politician, and that’s probably right and why I stand before you tonight,” Alvarez said. “But I’m very damn proud of the fact that I’m a good prosecutor.”
The race was elevated to a national scale following the release of the video showing Laquan McDonald getting shot and killed by a white Chicago police officer. Alvarez did not charge the officer until hours before the video’s release, more than 400 days after the incident had occurred.
“Obviously, this was a high-profile race, especially for a state’s attorney’s race, and we’re disappointed with the way the race shaped out,” Carson said. “I’m proud of Anita’s record, I know that she’s proud of her record in the state’s attorney’s office for what she’s done for victims of crime, but we’re disappointed with the result of this election.”
Alvarez has never held a job in here professional career outside the state’s attorney’s office, joining straight out of college in 1986. She gradually worked her way up the ladder before deciding to run for the top job in 2008. She won that race in an upset and was easily reelected four years later.
She touted her experience throughout the campaign as a plus, contrasting it with that of Foxx. But the headwinds appeared too much.
“We find ourselves here in this country, not just in Cook County, in a great climate of change for the criminal justice system,” Alvarez acknowledged.
She went on to thank her family, supporters, co-workers in the state’s attorney’s office, and expressed a hope that some of her programs would be preserved and that Chicago would be able to tackle it’s gun violence problem.