More touts outsider status, slams Alvarez, at campaign kickoff

Cook County State's Attorney Candidate Donna More speaks with a supporter at her inaugural campaign event Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Max Greenwood/MEDILL)

By Max Greenwood and Thomas Vogel

A former federal prosecutor running for Cook County’s top attorney job called for more steadfast investigation and prosecution of police-involved shootings Wednesday, and criticized State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s handling of the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Donna More kicked off her campaign at a Michigan Avenue hotel Wednesday morning with pointed criticism of Alvarez as a political insider, contrasting herself as a lawyer who has never pursued elected office.

“Today, we are putting everyone on notice that we are ready to elect a state’s attorney that isn’t afraid to do what’s right,” More told a group of more than 100 supporters. “A former federal prosecutor and an experienced trial lawyer who isn’t a politician, who believes evidence, not influence, is the bedrock of our system … and who will be tough on crime no matter who commits it.”

More, a Democrat, is among three candidates, including Democrat Kim Foxx, vying to oust Alvarez in Illinois’ March 15 primary. Alvarez has come under intense fire in recent months, after a judge forced city officials to release police dashcam video showing white police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald, who is black, 16 times. The video and the subsequent coverup prompted citywide protests calling for Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy resigned under pressure from Emanuel in November.

Van Dyke was indicted on charges of first-degree murder in November, more than a year after McDonald’s death. More said Alvarez was too slow in filing the charges against the officer.

“If the incumbent had the courage to act promptly on the video evidence of Laquan McDonald’s death, we’d be at trial today and not in the streets,” More said.

Outlining her campaign platform, More called for special programs to deal with police-related incidents and said she would push to reduce gun violence by cracking down on illegal gun ownership, as well as by supporting legislation similar to suburban Highland Park’s semi-automatic assault weapons ban.

Although More’s remarks emphasized her outsider image, she has filled several appointed government positions in the past. More has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Illinois, as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney and counsel for the Illinois Gaming Board, a state agency that oversees video and riverboat gambling.

A crowd of supporters listen to Cook County State’s Attorney Candidate Donna More speak at a campaign kickoff event, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Max Greenwood/MEDILL)

A few attendees came out Wednesday to hear more about More’s policy platform.

Mary Beth Hughes, who first met More through her husband, said the McDonald case irrevocably tarnished Alvarez’s tenure and acknowledged change is necessary. More’s outsider status and extensive legal career appeals to Hughes.

“She’s not a politician and she’s not afraid,” Hughes said. “I’m fearful Anita Alvarez has been influenced by politicians.”

Anastasios Foukas, a local attorney, echoed Hughes’ feelings about reforming the current system, which he believes is beholden to wealth and power.

“You have people with clout – to use a Chicago term – that have a different system of justice,” Foukas said.

Foukas admitted More’s policy proposals were ambitious but nonetheless reiterated his support for her candidacy.

“The only way to cure [a corrupt system] is to set a goal,” Foukas said. “You have to start taking steps in that direction.”

So far, More has put has put $250,000 of her own money into the campaign, and her husband and mother have contributed a combined $99,000. In December, More filed a notice with the Illinois State Board of Elections that she would be self-funding her campaign, which lifts the limits on campaign contributions.

There are roughly 70 days left before the March 15 primary. The Democratic nominee will face Republican Christopher Pfannkuche in the November general election.

Photo at top: Cook County State’s Attorney Candidate Donna More speaks with a supporter at her inaugural campaign event Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Max Greenwood/MEDILL)