With the Feb. 5 elections less than a week away, politicians in area races are making their final push to voters in the final days of their campaigns.

With that in mind, candidates running for offices in Cook County spoke at a forum Tuesday sponsored by the South Austin Coalition.

Michelle Clark Magnet High School also co-sponsored the event at the Senior Satellite Center, 5071 W. Congress Parkway.

Those in attendance included State Rep. Deborah Graham (78th), and her challenger, Realtor Phyllis Logan; and Cook County State’s Attorney candidates Anita Alvarez, Tony Peraica and Larry Suffredin.

State Sen. Don Harmon (39th), State Rep. Annazette Collins (10th) and State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) were also on hand for the event.

A bus load of high school seniors from Michelle Clark were present as well to ask their own questions to candidates.

Opening remarks were delivered by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), who’s office is not up for election this year.

“Being an elected official is a noble profession because we can work to effect many changes in our community,” she said. “For example, we can work to improve the achievement of the students in the school we represent, as well as ensure that seniors have access to the medical facilities they need to obtain adequate health care.”

Anita Alvarez, a prosecutor in the State’s Attorney’s office, spoke of her humble beginnings. She was born and raised in the Pilsen community, she told the audience. Alvarez’s father was a waiter and her mother a seamstress. As a youth, her mother encouraged Alvarez to “marry a lawyer.”

Instead, she went into law herself, landing a job with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as chief deputy in 1986, a position she currently holds.

Alvarez was one of the prosecutors in the 1997 “Girl X” case, involving a man who viciously beat, strangled, sexually-assaulted and poisoned a nine-year-old South Side girl. Her efforts led to the conviction of Patrick Sykes in 2001.

Alvarez’s platform includes harsher penalties for police found guilty of misconduct.

“I have prosecuted cases involving rogue police officers misusing their power and I know how serious the problem with corruption in law enforcement is,” she said. “I have the experience, qualifications and passion to effect the system of law in this county.”

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica is unopposed in the Republican primary next Tuesday.

“Continuing a campaign of reform,” was the key message Peraica looked to convey to voters.

Political corruption at the state level is his main concern, but he also promised to protect seniors and the disabled from scams. Peraica wants to prosecute companies responsible for scams and make restitution available to families.

“Our county government has become a hotbed of seedy dealings and questionable activities. So much so that people have begun to refer to it as ‘Crook County,'” he said. “I want to audit the books and lock up the crooks. I opposed [Board President] Stroger’s recent budget, which protected the county’s patronage armies at the expense of needed health care providers and facilities.”

Peraica added, “I want to have my own special committee assigned to audit the workers of Cook County to find out what they are spending your tax dollars on.”

Larry Suffredin, who’s also a Cook County commissioner, has practiced law for over 32 years.

Suffredin’s goals if elected State’s Attorney is to ensure fair treatment in sentencing for blacks and cut down on gun violence at schools.

“There is definitely something wrong with a system that would have African-Americans serve a five-percent longer sentence than whites for the same crime,” he said.

Suffredin added that the younger generation have to face issues that his generation never had to, namely the concern over whether they will live out the school year. Logan, a candidate for 78th district state representative, took a swipe at Graham, saying that issues such as police brutality and gentrification, “have been discussed and debated for over 40 years and still have not changed.”

She also called House Bill 4050, which Graham supported, “discriminatory against blacks.”

Graham, however, asserted that the bill was a “pilot program,” meant to protect minority communities from predatory lenders.