Cook County voters could be forgiven for not remembering they’re supposed to elect a new top prosecutor this fall.

Since her solid win in the nasty, expensive Democratic primary for state’s attorney, career prosecutor Anita Alvarez has kept a pretty low public profile. That’s because she’s been playing it safe and smart, traveling the county to meet with party committeemen and raise money. After all, if she gets the Democratic organization behind her she’ll win handily, especially with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. Alvarez would have to do something outrageous—like explain why she and others in the state’s attorney’s office have never made a priority of prosecuting abusive cops, from the time Richard M. Daley ran it until now—to have a chance of alienating the party apparatus and losing.

Her Republican opponent, Tony Peraica, undoubtedly understands this. So he’s relying on the now-familiar strategy of campaigning against Cook County Board president Todd Stroger instead.

Who wouldn’t rather face Stroger? Voters in Palatine have talked about seceding from the county over the tax hikes he’s engineered, and Stroger is unpopular even among the rest of us resigned to staying in it. Over the weekend the Trib ran a forceful editorial encouraging Cook County citizens to vote him out of office—even though he’s not up for reelection till 2010.

Peraica’s latest weekly newsletter quotes from the editorial and again reminds voters that he ran against Stroger in 2006, winning more votes than any previous Republican candidate for the seat. A couple of weeks ago he made sure readers knew Stroger had skipped a meeting with angry Palatine citizens (Peraica showed up and spoke to them instead); before that, he cited a Sun-Times story reporting that Stroger had hired ex-cons with political connections; before that, he trumpeted a piece revealing that Stroger required close aides to sign “confidentiality agreements” promising not to publicly discuss anything they see on the job.

In fact, since the February 5 primaries, Peraica has issued statements about Todd Stroger at least 17 times, by my count. Alvarez only got 14 mentions.

I recently spoke with a south-side politico who said he was worried that Peraica’s grandstanding was actually going to knock Alvarez out. “Do you think he can do it?” he wondered.

Nah. A lot can happen in a few months, but not that much. When he’s not storming the county building with overserved followers, Peraica’s a skilled hatchet man. Still, when people don’t have Todd Stroger to kick around in the voting booth in November, they’ll stick with the Democrat or the woman. In either case, Peraica’s not getting their vote. Tony, keep the anti-Stroger thing rolling a couple more years and you might get lucky.