The Power of Women, The Power of the Vote: Primary Election 2016

By Mary L. Datcher, Andre Carter and Kai EL’ Zabar

Challenger Kim Foxx , right, smiles at the crowd as her daughter Kai, wipes tears from eyes, as they celebrate Foxx's primary win over incumbent Democratic Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Challenger Kim Foxx , right, smiles at the crowd as her daughter Kai, wipes tears from eyes, as they celebrate Foxx’s primary win over incumbent Democratic Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

This election cycle was a long, slow ride with the last 72 hours building with anticipation and nervous anxiety among candidates. As the polls came to a close last night, gradually the results began to flash across the bottom of our screens for several hot primary races.

The power of the vote is dynamic and reflects the hard work of so many people that have marched, protested and lost their lives for change, for justice. The strength of women and the confidence in them from voters show that sexism, racism and classism should have no place in American elections.

Kim Foxx

Kim-Foxx-623x400The people’s choice, Kim Foxx, pulled the upset of the night, defeating scorned incumbent Anita Alvarez in the race for the Democratic nomination for Cook County State’s Attorney.  

With 96 percent of precincts reporting as of the Chicago Defender’s press time, Foxx held a commanding two-to-one, 58 to 29 percent lead over Alvarez – 600,000 to 298,000 votes.  Donna More trailed both at 13 percent and 134,000 votes.

The Cook County State’s Attorney race was one of the most heated election campaigns that we’ve seen since the Democratic mayoral primary race between then Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley, incumbent Mayor Jayne Byrne and the late Harold Washington in February 1983.

Resigning her position in May 2015 as the Chief of Staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Foxx entered the Cook County State’s Attorney’s race last fall. Her road to perdition wasn’t an easy one, as she had to fight off critics that spoke of Preckwinkle’s strategic backing of Foxx’s candidacy.

An attorney and former prosecutor that worked in the juvenile courts, Foxx’s prosecution record was constantly challenged both by Donna More and incumbent Alvarez.

Foxx’s campaign began to swell as the building anger over the delayed video release of Laquan McDonald’s murder washed over the public. Alvarez repeated excuses of defending her decision to wait 400 days to bring charges against Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the execution of 17-year-old McDonald.

The disturbing truth of work overload, heightened bail bonds, detainment for non-violent crimes, and rising juvenile convictions for felony charges, fed a cycle of “doing business as usual” within the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

Enough was enough. Cover-ups and a $5 million settlement approved by the Chicago City Council to McDonald’s family pushed community leaders and activists in the spotlight as demands for Alvarez’s resignation became the greatest motivation for voter registration in over 20 years.

It was apparent that change was necessary, and although former U.S. district attorney prosecutor Donna More has a plethora of experience, her campaign strategy did not spark a flame compared to Foxx’s fire.

Her win in this race was not about defeating Anita Alvarez; it was about igniting a real urgency in criminal justice reform. It was also about showing people that change is possible if we come together for a justified cause. Our vote does matter.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Chicago RallyAs of the Chicago Defender’s press time, Hillary Clinton clung to a tight 51 to 48 percent, roughly 40,000-vote lead over Bernie Sanders, with 87 percent of precincts counted for the Democratic presidential nomination, which has 156 Illinois delegates at stake.

With both candidates canvassing the Chicago and Illinois landscape, it was a battle to the finish line. Clinton gained a great deal of women and die-hard President Bill Clinton supporters who were more seasoned in pushing the Democratic Party agenda than younger, liberal Sander supporters.

Sanders’ message clearly connected with the social activist movement through better engagement and strategic social media, printed collateral and television presence.

Illinois was a very critical state for the Clintons as old friends were called upon, such as Congressman Danny Davis, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Congressman Bobby Rush.  Key faith leaders also showed their solidarity, traveling with Hillary throughout the final days leading up to the election.

From rallies held in Vernon Hills, Evanston and the West Loop to visiting neighboring Chicago communities like Pilsen, Austin and Roseland, the message was clear – both the Black and Brown vote was crucial to winning Illinois.

Holding the hands of mothers who lost loved ones to gun violence – Annette Holt (mother of Blair Holt), Pamela Bosley (mother of Terrell Bosley), Geneva Reed-Veal (mother of Sandra Bland), among other parents – became the anthem of both Democratic candidates in showing their empathy to the gun violence that plagues our communities and the victims that it claims.

Clinton has positioned herself to fight for jobs remaining in the United States, bringing more economic assistance to small businesses, and immigration reform.  

As we move forward to the general election in November, would Hillary Clinton as the nominee have enough power to push out Donald Trump’s catastrophic movement of modern Jim Crow values?

A Clinton win in Illinois would push Bernie supporters towards a narrower choice – vote for Clinton in the general election or allow Trump to be our next United States President.

Dorothy Brown

DorothyBrown.jpgThis seasoned political veteran pulled off an easy – some say upset – victory against the Cook County Democratic Party, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and other naysayers in keeping her seat as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, a position she has held since 2000.

As of Defender press time, Brown held a 48 to 31 percent lead over Dem Party endorsed candidate 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris with a vote margin of 446,571 to 287,117 after 96 percent of the precincts had reported.

The candidate endorsed by most majority media outlets, Jacob Meister, trailed with 22 percent of the count, and only 205,106 votes.

With the heavy weight of a federal investigation on her and her husband, and an employee in her office accused of lying to a federal grand jury, Brown stood her ground and maintained her innocence.

As another hit to her office, the Cook County Democratic Party passed on endorsing her for a fourth term in office. Not skipping a beat, Brown moved forward in almost military fashion with a straightforward “boots to the ground” campaign against party endorsed Ald. Harris.

Because of her strong community engagement and consistency in connecting with her constituents in both the city and suburbs, her win was a serious black eye for the Cook County Democratic Party machine.

Andrea Zopp

Andrea Zopp U.S. Senate Candidate

Andrea Zopp U.S. Senate Candidate

The second African-American female candidate for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat was soundly defeated by Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth in the primary. As of the Defender’s press time, Zopp trailed by a 64 to 25 percent, and was behind by more than 600,000 votes with 85 percent of precincts reported.

Zopp, the former president of the Chicago Urban League, had a rocky beginning in securing the support from other African-American public officials and leaders.

But as the climate surrounding Laquan McDonald escalated, the necessity of having transparency in our elected offices became very apparent. Zopp’s career as a seasoned Cook County prosecutor and corporate general counsel began to be noticed.

The lack of diversity on the United States Senate floor is tremendous and not since Senator Carol Moseley-Braun has there been another elected female senator from Illinois.

Zopp’s lost can perhaps be blamed on her Chicago Public School board role in the closing of over 50 schools predominately in Black communities. However, the decision to shut down these schools was a collective effort and one that was in place before Mayor Rahm Emanuel won his election in 2010.

Shifting the blame on one member of the six-member school board when they are seeking a public office is an easy target, but the question the Chicago Defender asked numerous times was: Where is Tammy Duckworth in the Black community?

Zopp, an advocate for youth job placement and professional development for entrepreneurs, dedicated her time and efforts to the African-American community through the Chicago Urban League for five years. Prior to this, she has demonstrated continuous guidance and mentorship to rising female attorneys in both the public and private sectors.

In the final few weeks leading to the primary election, we witnessed a shift of support to Andrea Zopp, including key publication endorsements from city and downstate papers to other public officials, faith leaders and business owners.

Although not every person of color felt warm and fuzzy about supporting Zopp’s candidacy, the candidacy of Illinois State Senator Napoleon Harris was not enough to bump Duckworth out of the running for the general election.

Nonetheless, the Chicago Defender is pleased with our endorsement of Andrea Zopp because her campaign demonstrated a level of integrity, class and character that was lacking in many campaigns this primary.

Juliana Stratton

In another significant, extremely contested race, Juliana Stratton trounced Ken Dunkin in the race for the Democratic nomination for Illinois House Representative in the 5th District.imgres-1

At the Defender’s press time, Stratton more than doubled Dunkin with 68 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Dunkin, or 17,000 votes to Dunkin’s 8,000, with 84 percent of precincts reporting.

In a rare move of a sitting U.S. president taking sides in a statehouse race, President Barack Obama endorsed Stratton and even cut a radio and TV spot for her.

The race was so hotly contested because Dunkin has recently showed his independence of Dem Party king Mike Madigan to work across the aisle on some initiatives with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In other races of note, incumbents Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Robin Kelly all won their contests handily, with winning percentages ranging from 72 to 81 percent.

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