Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation this past weekend that allows the election for Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District to take place on April 9 – along with municipal elections that were already planned. The wide-open race includes a tentative flood of candidates who’ve set their sights on the seat vacated the day before Thanksgiving by embattled former congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
When the longtime Democratic stepped down last month, he created a rare vacancy in a post he had held since 1995.
The tentative list of candidates includes city, county and state politicians who have jumped at the chance to head to Washington.
Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) issued a statement expressing his care and concern for Jackson who first went on leave of absence on June 10 before announcing his resignation on Nov. 21. Days later, Beale, whose ward is one of four in the mostly-suburban district, immediately threw his hat in the running.
A number of other aldermen are believed – though not confirmed – to be eyeing the post including Will Burns (4th) and Howard Brookins (21st).
Sunday, Cook County chief administrator, Robin Kelly announced she was in the race. Kelly, who lives in south suburban Matteson, is a former state representative and chief of staff to former -Ill. Treasurer Alexi Giannoulius. She unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer in 2010 at the same time Giannoulius lost his U.S. Senate bid.
Kelly said the Republican-controlled U.S. House could not only use more Democrats but also an uptick in its number of women.
Kelly is running, in part, “for all the women who are tired of Republican men spending more time trying to take away our rights than doing anything to improve our lives,” she said Sunday as she announced her candidacy.
Dentist and former Ill. State Rep. , David Miller, retreated to his dental practice after losing the Illinois state Comptroller race two years ago. The suburban Democrat could re-emerge on the political scene as a candidate in this race.
Former 12th Dist. U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson lost to Jackson this year in the March 2012 Primary Election, paving the way for Jackson’s landslide General Election win on Nov. 6. The south suburban Crete resident and former state senator is expected to be on the April 9 ballot.
State Sens. Toi Hutchinson (Dist. 40) and Donne Trotter (Dist. 17), and state Rep.-elect Napolean Harris (Dist. 15) didn’t return Chicago Citizen calls for comment but the three legislators are rumored to be in the Congressional race.
The potential pool includes some ironic – and unlikely – prospects like shamed former congressman Mel Reynolds. Reynolds defeated Gus Savage in 1992 to become the 2nd Congressional District representative. He was re-elected in 1994 while under indictment for 12 counts of sexual offense charges. By August 1995 he would be convicted on the charges and he resigned from Congress two months later while serving time in federal prison he picked up another federal case and was again convicted. But it was Pres. Bill Clinton who threw Reynolds a lifeline by commuting his remaining bank fraud (second) sentence. Clinton pardoned Reynolds’ sex crimes charges.
Reynolds made a run for the seat in 2004 in an embarrassing Jackson blowout.
In announcing his candidacy this time around, he admitted that more than a decade ago he “made mistakes.”
Disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s high profile and first trial attorney Sam Adam Jr. is said to be a potential contender in the race as well.
His secretary told the Chicago Citizen that Adam would not return calls to confirm or comment until after he finishes a client’s trial – possibly later this week.
Jonathan Jackson, former congressman Jackson’s younger brother, runs the Rainbow PUSH Coalition with the men’s father, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Jonathan’s name emerged as a maybe in the race to replace his brother.
“I cannot confirm that,” Jonathan Jackson told the Chicago Citizen when reached on his cell phone and asked if he were a candidate.
One potential candidate has bowed out before the race could get underway. Rev. Corey Brooks first made headlines when he camped out on the rooftop of an abandoned motel then embarked on a cross-country walk to raise money and awareness about urban violence. He said initially that he was being asked to run for the seat. Sunday he announced from the pulpit of his New Beginnings church that he wouldn’t seek the seat.
“I decided not to run,” he said, pointing to unfinished work with his Project H.O.O.D community service initiative.
Gov. Quinn said having the election on April 9 with the other municipal elections would save taxpayers money. The special election primary will be held on Feb. 26. Candidates have just over two months to raise money – and for some, their profile – in the District that stretches from South Shore and Roseland in the city down the I-57 expressway corridor to Kankakee.
By Rhonda Gillespie