After making their pleas to the Cook County Democratic Committee for why they should be the one to fill the congressional seat once held by former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., none of the 16 candidates who spoke during Saturday’s special slating session held at South Suburban College received the committee’s backing.
Each Cook County Democratic Committee member’s vote was weighted based on the number of votes cast in their ward or township in the last election.
Robert Storman, a spokesman for Frank Zuccarelli, Thornton Township Democratic Committee chairman, who represents 20,156 votes said that none of the candidates received a majority of the votes. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson, was absent from Saturday’s slating session but designated her 7,723 votes to Zuccarelli, who backed Illinois State Senator, Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).
Slating committee members also included 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston with 3,937 votes; 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris, 2,862 votes; 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale, 6,845 votes; 10th Ward Ald. John Pope, 3,672 votes; 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin, 2,155 votes; Terry Mathews, Bloom Township, 8,929 votes; Illinois Sen. Maggie Crotty, 4,140; Illinois Rep. Bob Rita, 161 votes; Tim Bradford, Township Administrator for Richton Park, 11,393 votes; John Willard, Kankakee County Chairman, 4,500 votes; Scott Pyles, Will County Chairman, 4,530 votes.
Storman said he was not allowed to provide a breakdown of how the slating committee voted, but that Trotter was a front-runner. He said also that rather than trying to persuade other members to back Trotter, Zuccarelli, for the sake of party unity, thought it best to declare an open primary.
Candidates, including Trotter, who is facing a felony weapons charge after a .25 caliber handgun and ammunition was discovered in a his carryon luggage at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Dec. 5,were asked their position on abortion, gay marriage, union protection, economic development plans they’d like to implement and for assurances that they would represent the entire district.
Trotter was not asked about the gun charge during the public interview session but was asked to explain the circumstances surrounding the incident and confirm his next court date during the closed-session, Storman said.
Committeeman Mathews of Bloom County said it makes better sense to keep Trotter as a state senator because Trotter has been able to secure funding.
“I feel it could be a loss with you going off to Washington,” Mathews said to Trotter.
“I don’t disagree with you saying I’m great,” Trotter said to Mathews as the crowd applauded and laughed. “I spent my career mentoring a lot of people. I sit on committees to make sure we have continuity.”
“This is a very important seat, said Zucarelli. “We realize it would be a loss (at the state level) but we need someone who can represent the 2nd Congressional District.
Beale is the only committeeman running for the seat. He said during his speech that the planned South Suburban Airport could bring several jobs and could potentially positively transform the South suburban area. Beale also mentioned his successful work in bringing Wal-Mart to Chicago’s Pullman area and the $32 million he secured to finish Gwendolyn Brooks High School.
“My commitment is to work with every alderman to see what their priorities are and try to make it happen,” Beale said.
Other illinois politicians in the race include, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson; and Democratic candidates, former State Rep. Robin Kelly; State Sen. Toi Hutchinson; Rev. Anthony Williams; Rep. David Miller; State Sen. Elect, Napoleon Harris; Joyce Washington; Denise Hill; Tonya Hunter and former congressman Mel Reynolds.
Jackson Jr., who held the seat for nearly 17 years, resigned from the U.S. House last month, citing his struggles with bipolar disorder, opening the way for a slew of candidates to make a bid for the seat.
By Deborah Bayliss