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The [Thursday] Papers

Anita Alvarez is the star of the moment on the local political scene, but I'm not sure why her victory in the Democratic primary for Cook County State's Attorney is such a surprise. She was the strongest debate performer (in the one debate I saw; I think there was at least one other), aired the best TV commercials, was the only woman and Hispanic in the race, and made an effective case that she would be an agent of change despite being the chief deputy of Dick Devine's office.

I have to admit, I thought it would be between her and Larry Suffredin, whose showing was much weaker than I expected. The truth is, there just isn't a large reform vote in Cook County. (Barack Obama certainly didn't have any reform coattails, did he? Isn't that interesting? Apparently "change" is a meme without legs.)

Suffredin's campaign was no doubt bolstered by endorsements from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, but his commercials and debate performance - for the very few who were watching - were awkward. He was also tainted by his lobbying ties, in a contest that was in part one between career prosecutors and politicians. In the end, Suffredin won a landslide in Evanston, but didn't catch on in the rest of the county.

I was surprised by the strong showing of Ald. Tom Allen. I didn't see that coming, even if he had union support and the Tribune's endorsement. Allen, I'm told, is popular in his ward, but he presents as a classic Chicago alderman. Instead, I thought Smilin' Bob Milan would get more support, seeing as how he had Devine's endorsement and, I perhaps wrongly assumed, some sort of institutional and organizational support. He even aired a Bill Richardson-like commercial that revealed an actual sense of humor. And he got stomped.

Smilin' Milan, as Devine's top assistant and a rung above Alvarez, must be tearing his hair out. At first I dismissed him as the ultimate status quo candidate, but he was persuasive in his argument that he in fact had made internal changes - such as requiring the videotaping of all murder confessions - that were of the sort everyone else was talking about.

"Where were these agents of change?" he said of his opponents whom, he charged, had just discovered the issues facing the office in time for an election.

Milan's impatience and outright disdain for the pols he was up against - and debate panelist Cliff Kelley, who engaged in wholly inappropriate grandstanding in lecturing Milan on the issues - was actually a plus in my book.

But Alvarez was able to counter his attacks on her - his refrain that she was nowhere to be found when he was making change - by pointing to his brusque manner as proof positive that he wasn't the right person to run an inclusive, citizen-friendly office.

And she effectively countered Allen's call for "a fresh start" in an office where he said "False confessions, wrongful convictions, perjury, perjurious expert testimony have gone unchecked" by saying that "Politics is fine, if you want to be an alderman. There is a true danger in handing this office over to someone who will make charging decisions for political reasons."

You got the sense that, above all, she was competent; it didn't take a leap of faith (or a roll of the dice) to cast a vote for her and feel like the office would be run by someone who knew what she was doing. (Though I would have liked to see more media coverage of this race, and in particular, of the records and internal politics involving Alvarez and Milan.)

Meanwhile, Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. wasn't able to overcome allegations of personal improprieties to break out his south suburban stronghold, even though he was best positioned as an African American to carry the reform message echoed by Allen and Suffredin. (The sixth candidate, Tommy Brewer, was a non-factor, as usual.)

Things might have been different in a smaller field with just one reform candidate, or even with just one less.

But I can't say I'm disappointed in the outcome.


UPDATE 4:25 P.M.: Alvarez will appear on Chicago Tonight tonight.


Tony the Tiger
Alvarez will face Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, in November's general election.

"Peraica, a Croatian immigrant, primarily practices personal injury and real-estate law," the Tribune reports. "He has no prosecutorial experience, but he has tried some criminal cases as a defense attorney.

"He shrugs off concerns about his legal resume, saying the job is largely an administrative position. 'This [state's attorney] is an administrative, supervisory position,' he said. But if I have to try a murder case, no trial of that magnitude is done in a vacuum. It's a team effort.'"

I think the image alone of Tony Peraica trying a murder case loses the election for him.

The Daley Show
The mayor lambasted six aldermen who dared to vote against the realty transfer tax hike necessary to complete Springfield's CTA bailout package for - irony alert - lacking courage.

"If Ald. Fioretti believes they don't need the CTA in his ward, then stand up and say, 'CTA, bypass my people," Daley screamed. (And yes, I saw the video and "screamed" is being polite. "Apopletic" fits. Also, "cry-baby.")

Of course, Bob Fioretti and the other No votes (Sandi Jackson, Berny Stone, Brian Doherty, Rey Colon and Sharon Denise Dixon) weren't voting against CTA service in their wards. The mayor's argument, as usual, was beyond reason.

Instead, Doherty correctly noted that the city council - and Daley, really - had been "bamboozled by Springfield."

After all, the tax increase had been foisted on them by an incompetent state legislature, rendering the city council a rubber stamp not only for Daley, but for Rod Blagojevich, Michael Madigan and Emil Jones.

Proxy War
Ald. Danny Solis, whose sister is Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, said last night on Chicago Tonight that he has known Barack Obama for 20 years and "he has done nothing significant in any phase of his career . . . the pundits are presenting a portrait of Barack that's a little bit elevated from what reality is."

Former Gov. Jim Edgar, meanwhile, said he was worried that John McCain was too conservative, presumably on the war and tax cuts, though he didn't say that.

Publisher's Folly
* Sun-Times publisher Cy Freidheim said last night on Chicago Tonight that Stella Foster's column has "as high quality content anywhere."

* He also said the resignation of editorial page editor Cheryl Reed over outside rewrites of the paper's presidential endorsements was "a tempest in a teapot" and that the unconcerned attitude in the newsroom was to "get on with life."

Pressed by Elizabeth Brackett on just what changes were made, Freidheim said "some of the words, some of the tone, some of the details, that's all."

* Finally, Freidheim said his paper's competition wasn't the Tribune but Google and Yahoo, whom he accused of "pirating" the news. Google and Yahoo actually send readers to the Sun-Times's website. So what's the problem? Besides, the paper's real competition is RedEye, and the answer to its problems is realizing how it got into that position in the first place.

Esther Cepeda, who lost her job at the Sun-Times in the last round of layoffs, will continue her column at the paper on a freelance basis.

Love Is . . .
So wrong.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Cheeky.


Posted on February 7, 2008

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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