The state's attorney in Chicago, Anita Alvarez, and the county prosecutor in Cleveland, Tim McGinty, both lost their bids for re-election last night, losing their Democratic primaries to challengers.
Prior to her defeat, Alvarez lost the support of the local Democratic party, which endorsed her challenger, and last night's winner, Kim Foxx, instead. Alvarez had been widely criticized for her handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting, failing to bring charges against the officer who killed McDonald until after a judge ordered the release of dashcam video of the shooting.
"There was no justifiable reason, whatsoever, for a delay in charges of 400 days," Foxx told MSNBC earlier this week. Nevertheless, neither Alvarez nor Foxx mention the McDonald case in their election night speeches. Alvarez attributed her loss, instead, to being a poor politician. She could not have been that poor of a politician—after all, she won a close primary in 2008 and two general elections after that.
Prior to bringing charges against the police officer who shot Laquan McDonald, Alvarez had declined to prosecute 68 cops involved in fatal shootings in the last seven years. That record did not stop her from winning elections before—which could be a welcome sign of voters in big cities finally punishing politicians who have contributed to the problem of police violence.
Alvarez's defeat was a victory for critics of police abuse, but Foxx's win may not be, yet. While Foxx got the endorsement of local activists as well as celebrities like John Legend, she has been an assistant prosecutor for more than a decade, with no substantive record of standing up to police violence in that time.
In Cuyahoga County, meanwhile, Ted McGinty lost his re-election bid in large part because of his decision not to prosecute the police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of exiting his patrol car.
McGinty was defeated by Mike O'Malley, who entered the race just a few days before the filing deadline in December. Even before O'Malley entered the race, Democratic ward leaders in Cleveland declined to "recommend" McGinty for an endorsement, supporting O'Malley instead.
O'Malley currently serves as public safety director in Parma and was the deputy prosecutor under McGinty's predecessor, William Mason. He was a general felony unit supervisor, working closely with police departments in the county.
While Foxx and O'Malley rode popular discontent with police abuse to electoral victory, they are both law enforcement insiders. Voters in Chicago and Cleveland may have voted the bums out, but they could well have voted new bums in. That remains to be seen. Issues of police reform have largely taken a backseat in the national presidential race (save the occasional bromide deployed to curry support among certain demographics), but local policies and politicians have far more influence on the conditions under which police violence thrives, and so local fights ,while less glamorous and less followed, are far more important than the national ones.