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Chicago’s Latino community divided over Alvarez’s defeat

PHOTO/Rich Whitehead, 2008

Alex Rendón could not bring himself to support Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, even though she is the first Latina elected to the top prosecutor job in Chicago. Alvarez lost her reelection bid in the primary on Tuesday.

Rendón, 35, recalled how the younger brother of one of his closest friends was “t-boned” by a police officer and died on the scene. Rendón said Alvarez never prosecuted the officer.

Alvarez stopped representing the Hispanic population after she got lost in the glamour of politics, he said.

Last fall, Alvarez was widely criticized by the media for her handling of alleged cases of police misconduct, including accusations that she tried to block the release of a dash-cam video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.

Alvarez took 13 months before charging Van Dyke and only did so in the days before a judge ordered the city to release the video.

The Cook County prosecutor lost her bid for a third term to Kim Foxx in a landslide. Foxx had nearly 58 percent of the vote to Alvarez’s 29 percent. Third place candidate Donna More racked up 13 percent of the vote Tuesday.

“People are tired of the lies,” said Rendón, a business owner and construction worker in Pilsen.

Alvarez, however, did have some support in the predominantly Latino Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. Some residents said they backed Alvarez in spite of the criticisms against her, reflecting the divide in Chicago’s Latino community over how much responsibility Alvarez should take for the recent police misconduct controversies.

“She’s a good candidate,” said Sonia Sauceda, an accountant and baker, who voted for Alvarez because she has “personal connections” to the incumbent, allowing her to see a side of the candidate regular people don’t get to see.

Sauceda, 42, said Alvarez’s critics ignored her successes and instead focused on her recent mistakes.

PHOTO/ C. Presutti, 2015

Business owner and graphic designer Alexandria Kennedy, however, said she expected the incumbent to lose and that Alvarez betrayed the city by keeping the Laquan McDonald video from the public.

“I don’t think you can get away with betraying Chicago and keep staying in the office,” said Kennedy, a 24-year-old barista and manager in Pilsen.

Kennedy said she researched Alvarez’s opponent, Foxx, before the election and was impressed when she saw her at a recent campaign stop at the 95th and Dan Ryan CTA train station. A native of Chicago and former president of the Chicago Chapter National Black Prosecutors Association, Foxx came across as well-respected, Kennedy said.

“She is a fresh face [with] fresh ideas,” Kennedy added. “When you’re voting for someone, you do not know what they are going to do in office. But from my research, I feel like she is more trustworthy for the people of Chicago.”

Pilsen barber Roberto Martínez, 79, said he voted for Alvarez because of her Hispanic heritage and that “her name told him everything.”

“Let’s get Hispanics into this country,” he said in Spanish. “If black people have already chosen mayors and a president, why can’t Latinos do it?”

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