In what may have been the most galvanizing and closely watched state's attorney race the country has ever seen, Cook County, Illinois, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez was ousted by voters on Tuesday in favor of fellow Democrat Kim Foxx.
DNAInfo Chicago reports that Foxx earned a decisive 58% of votes compared to Alvarez's 29%. "I have been criticized that I wasn't a very good politician and that's probably right, and that's probably why I stand before you tonight," Alvarez, a two-term incumbent, said at a news conference after her defeat, according to BuzzFeed.
The actual reason she stood before them on Tuesday night was much less noble than that. Alvarez has emerged as one of the country's most hated prosecutors, stemming from a long history of questionable conduct and a tendency to protect the police and those in power after they harmed civilians.
The stand-out example was how Alvarez waited 400 days to charge Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder after he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in an incident caught on video in October 2014. Alvarez filed charges only after Chicago police and administrators tried and failed to keep the video from reaching the public.
The Daily Beast adds that Alvarez declined to charge police officers in 68 separate fatal shootings over the last seven years.
With that resume, it's hard to imagine Cook County would have kept her around much longer. But Alvarez's defeat was also the result of a massive grassroots organizing effort in Chicago. A coalition of groups, including the Black Youth Project 100, Assata's Daughters, Black Lives Matter Chicago, We Charge Genocide, the National People's Action Campaign, Reclaim Chicago, The People's Lobby and many others, spent the last five months knocking on doors, staging protests and organizing social media campaigns designed to mobilize public discontent into actual votes.
"Time and time again, Anita Alvarez has protected bad cops and a broken criminal justice system, instead of everyday people," Daniel Espinosa, a lead organizer with the National People's Action Campaign, said in a statement. "That's why community groups have led an unprecedented effort to unseat her. We need a prosecutor for the people. Tonight's results will send shock waves across the nation."
Indeed, Alvarez wasn't the only prosecutor who fell on Tuesday: Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor who declined to charge two Cleveland police officers in the November 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old unarmed black child, was also defeated at the polls. Both prosecutors fell in large part due to public anger with how they handled police shootings of black youth.
Feels like there's a lesson here. Foxx will face Republican Christopher Pfannkuche in the Illinois general election on Nov. 8.