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CHICAGO � The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago is up for grabs and more than a few lawyers in town are gunning for the job. There are seven Democrats, including two career prosecutors, two city aldermen and one county commissioner, running in the party’s Feb. 5, 2008, primary, and several Republicans may also run in that party’s primary. The race has been heating up with each new entrant ever since State’s Attorney Richard “Dick” Devine announced in August that he wouldn’t seek another term in the November 2008 election, eliminating an incumbent from the race for the first time in decades. 800 lawyers The Cook County prosecutor’s office is the second largest in the country behind Los Angeles, with 1,300 employees, including 800 lawyers, and an annual budget of $95 million. The top job in the office has long been a stepping stone to higher office and judgeships, including for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. “It’s a prominent, in-the-paper job that doesn’t have a lot of downside to it,” said Michael Hayes Sr., an attorney at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd in Chicago who worked in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office from 1974 to 1991. Robert Milan and Anita Alvarez, the current second- and third-ranked officials in Devine’s office, respectively, are both Democrats seeking the job. City council members Thomas Allen and Howard Brookins Jr., Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Illinois Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Clayton Harris III will also be contenders. Chicago attorney Tommy Brewer, a Democrat, is also running for the position and lost a bid for the office in the past. Despite Cook County’s reputation as a Democratic stronghold, the fact that several Republicans have held the position in the past lends credence to campaigns by Republicans Anthony “Tony” Peraica, a Cook County commissioner, and James Koch, an attorney at Gardiner Koch & Weisberg in Chicago. Homicide rates Milan and Alvarez stake their bids on more than 20 years of experience in the office as prosecutors and say they would largely uphold and advance Devine’s agenda. “It would trouble me greatly if some nonprosecutor, some politician, took the office,” Milan said. Milan wants to cut the homicide rate in half again after Devine reduced it to 450 murders annually from 900. Alvarez prides herself on being the only woman candidate for an office that is 54% women and said the office needs to “push a little more” on recruiting minority attorneys. “Mr. Devine has put us on the right road and we need to keep continuing down that road,” Alvarez said. Many of the other candidates previously worked in either Cook County’s public defenders’ or state’s attorney’s office, but advocate a greater change in direction after 11 years under Devine. “This is a real opportunity to improve the office and to make some sea changes as to the direction the office is going,” said Suffredin, an attorney at Shefsky & Froelich in Chicago. Suffredin joins Brookins and Harris, who are both African-Americans, in calling for fairer treatment of minorities and better recruitment of minority attorneys. Brookins said specifically that there should be clearer sentencing guidelines to avoid disproportionately harsher treatment of minorities and poor people. “The system in the minds of a lot of minorities and people in the communities has been broken,” Brookins said.

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