A White in Junior Jackson’s Seat?
It’s just another congressional vacancy but circumstances give Illinois’s Second District special interest. Since 1995 it belonged to the son of the nation’s best-known civil rights figure, who soon developed a broader, progressive crossover following than the father.
Then Jesse Jackson Jr. got caught in an ethics issue because of his effort to be named to Barack Obama’s senate seat. He strangely disappeared then surfaced belatedly as a patient of bipolar disorder. He did no campaigning last November but won overwhelmingly. The wheels came off when the feds accused him of spending campaign funds for personal use. He began plea-bargaining and resigned his seat—soon followed by his wife’s resigning her Chicago aldermanic seat after kinky transfers of funds between her aldermanic account and his federal account were discovered.
It all seriously disappointed the many who saw Junior as a rising star who actually outpolled Richard M. Daley in a mayoral heat several years ago.
Now 22 candidates are vying for his seat in a special primary election to be held Feb. 26. In this overwhelmingly Democratic district, we can forget the five Republicans. Of the remaining 17 Democrats the primary winner will take the general election for what should be a lifelong seat—assuming he or she avoids the legal complications of previous holders.
The first African American to take this majority black, largely suburban seat was Gus Savage in 1980. Savage was unseated after six terms by a combination of Israeli lobby money and an official reprimand for sexual harassment of a Peace Corps worker. The winner, Mel Reynolds quickly ran into double trouble by having sex with a minor and mis-spending campaign funds, which put him in the slammer—opening the way for Jackson, who beat the powerful machine boss Emil Jones.
One issue is that the sole white contender, former U.S. Rep. Deborah Halvorson—widely disliked by her peers—could win with a white minority of 30 percent or less if the African American vote is badly split.
Let’s dispense with most of the lesser known Democratic vanity candidates, including ex-con Reynolds, and boil the contest down to a serious few, led by former State Rep. Robin Kelly, who won a statewide primary for treasurer but lost the general though she carried the area and is best known of an undistinguished lot. She recently headed the staff of popular Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Next comes multiterm Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale (9th) who has the support of some Chicago committeemen in this majority suburban district. Suburban State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a second termer of no record seems to be running on her good looks, while recently elected State Sen. Napoleon Harris is running on his reputation as a football pro with tons of personal money. Joyce Washington is another wealthy perennial.
The question is whether several blacks will drop out and the community consolidate around someone like Kelly—the closest thing to a genuine standout—or split several ways and let an unpopular white win with a tiny plurality for the first time in 33 years.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
image the Clash on a similar subject