Halvorson to run to replace Jackson

November 26, 2012

By Alex Keefe

(AP/File)

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson is officially adding her name to the growing list of candidates interested in running to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. in Congress.

Fresh off a tough loss to Jackson in the March primary, Halvorson announced Monday she plans to run for the seat again, less than a week after the embattled longtime Congressman resigned.

"We knew that it would be an uphill battle winning against the Jackson name," Halvorson told WBEZ Monday, referring to her primary loss. "You know, but unlike anybody else who would get in the race now, I was, you know, not afraid to take him on. And I'm not afraid of tough battles.

The list of Chicago pols said to be toying with a run for the Jackson’s former 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses the South Side and parts of the south suburbs, seems to grow by the day.

Halvorson, who served one term in the U.S. House but lost re-election in 2010, is trying to position herself as the only candidate in the race so far with a congressional record. Before her stint in Congress, Halvorson also spent 12 years in the Illinois Senate where she served as Democratic majority leader. 

Other people who have publicly flirted with a run at Jackson’s former seat include Democratic Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchison; Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th); Democratic Illinois State Sen. Donnie Trotter; and Pastor Anthony Williams. The list of rumored candidates is even longer.

But as yet, Halvorson is the only white candidate who’s stepped forward to represent the heavily Democratic, majority black district. But race isn’t a concern, Halvorson said.

“We need to get past that,” she said.

But efforts to anoint an African-American consensus candidate are already underway.

Illinois State. Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who is not running in the special election, said having too many black candidates in the race could dilute African-American political power. He said he’s been in touch with some potential candidates in an effort to convince them to step aside for someone who has a better chance of winning, though he wouldn’t say whom he’s spoken to.

Raoul also called Halvorson’s decision to throw her hat in the ring “curious,” given her primary loss to Jackson in March.

“I think the fact that … she ran, and she lost overwhelmingly, suggest that she’s not the candidate of choice of a vast majority of constituents in the district,” Raoul said, suggesting that Halvorson may have seen opportunity in a race where a large number of African-American candidates could divide the black vote.

Jackson's long political career ended with his resignation on Wednesday. In his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Jackson alluded to the bi-polar disorder that had kept him away from Congress since June, and to an ongoing federal investigation. He stepped down just a few weeks after easily winning re-election over Republican Brian Woodworth and independent Marcus Lewis on Nov. 6.

With a potentially large and unwieldy list of politicians who may run to replace Jackson, the Cook County Democratic Party is hoping to winnow the field with an endorsement, according to a party spokesman. It’s unclear how soon that slating will occur, however.