Illinois state lawmaker arrested with pistol at O'Hare

December 5, 2012

Donne Trotter mug shotVeteran Illinois State Sen. Donne Trotter faces felony gun charges after getting caught with a handgun while going through security at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday morning, according to the Chicago Police Department.
 
The 62-year-old Trotter, who has been considered a strong candidate in the special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress, was caught at the airport with an unloaded .25 caliber handgun in his carry on bag, along with a clip of ammunition at around 7:15 a.m. Wednesday. Trotter, a part-time security guard, told Transportation Security Administration agents he forgot to unpack his bag after work. He did have a valid firearm owner's ID card, according to police.
 
Trotter faces a felony charge of attempting to board an airplane with a firearm. He's currently in custody of the Chicago police and is expected in Cook County bond court on Thursday.
 
Trotter didn't immidiately return messages Wednesday afternoon.

According to the website DNAinfo, which first reported the arrest, Trotter was on his way to Washington D.C. He told WBEZ last week he was headed there for a national conference of black state lawmakers, and to tap his allies in Congress to hook him up with possible campaign donors for his 2nd Congressional District campaign.

Politically, Trotter’s arrest couldn’t have come at a worse time.

On Dec. 15, Democratic Party bosses from the 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Chicago's South Side and south suburbs, are set to meet at a slate-making session in hopes of endorsing a single candidate for the Feb. 26 primary. Trotter, a long-time state senator, has said he was close to having the backing of enough party bosses to become the Democrats' anointed candidate – a much sought-after endorsement in a crowded race.

“It was gonna be interesting at slate-making how it was,” Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios said Wednesday. “Now this just throws a little bit more ammo into the decision.”

Berrios said the arrest will certainly cause headaches for Trotter during the congressional race, and could prompt some committeemen to step back from their support for his bid.

“Those are things that candidates have to deal with, and when they make a mistake, they have to own up to it,” Berrios said.

He declined to say whether Trotter should drop out of the race.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the large field of candidates running to replace Jackson seemed to be holding off on attacking Trotter for the incident.

“Obviously it’s not a good thing to have a gun on a plane,” said former Congressman Mel Reynolds, who is one of at about a dozen candidates who say they’re running in the April 9 special election.

“I can tell you this about Senator Trotter: He’s not a bad guy, never has been a bad guy, and people make mistakes,” said Reynolds, who resigned from his 2nd Congressional District seat in 1995 after being convicted of having a sexual relationship with a teenage campaign worker.

Some contenders in the race declined to comment, including Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchison and Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly, both Democrats.

Other Democrats running for the open seat include former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson; 9th Ward Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale; Pastor Anthony Williams; and State Senator-elect Napoleon Harris, a former NFL linebacker. Lenny McAllister, a pundit and former Chicago radio show host, is so far the lone Republican in the race.

Trotter recently announced that he would run for Congress, seeking the seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Trotter previously ran for Congress in 2000, a race in which both he and then-state Sen. Barack Obama lost to U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.

Trotter served in the Illinois House from 1988 to 1993, and since then in the Illinois Senate. Under former Senate President Emil Jones, he was the Senate Democrats' budget negotiator, known as a cool, calm presence in the often-contentious budget debates during the tenure of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is now imprisoned on corruption charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.