The resignation of Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. has opened a pipeline of aspiring Chicago Democrats eyeing the vacant seat.
Less than a week after the Illinois Democrat announced his departure from Congress, as many as 20 potential candidates — including several well-known figures — could run for the 2nd District seat in southern Chicagoland.
On Monday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn scheduled the special election primary for Feb. 26. Given that the victor should cruise through the general election, primary voters will effectively pick the next Congress member for this heavily Democratic seat.
As of Monday afternoon, the following Democrats had expressed interest in running or announced their campaigns:
Alderman Anthony Beale is considering a bid, according to multiple sources. His spokeswoman, Delmarie Cobb, did not return a message seeking comment before press time Monday. Beale briefly flirted with challenging Jackson in the March primary but did not run.
Alderman Will Burns is also seriously considering a bid and told Roll Call that he will make a statement “shortly.” He lives just outside the 2nd District, and there had been speculation he would seek the seat held by neighboring Democratic Rep. Bobby L. Rush when he retires.
Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly told Roll Call that she plans to formally announce her decision about the race on Sunday. In the meantime, she’s building “support” and a “foundation” for if she runs. A 20-year resident of the district, Kelly unsuccessfully ran for Illinois treasurer in 2010.
The Rev. Corey Brooks tweeted his interest in the race over the weekend. Known as the “Pastor on the Roof,” Brooks camped out on top of a vacant South Side motel last year until he raised the $450,000 needed to build a community center on its plot. After 94 days, director Tyler Perry kicked in the remaining funds and Brooks climbed down.
Ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson became the first candidate to kick off a campaign Monday morning. In an interview, she said she “can hit the ground running” if elected, given her prior experience in Congress. She hails from the southern part of the district, which she represented in the state Legislature and in Congress.
State Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris has not even started in the Legislature yet, but he’s expressed interest in running for this seat. The former NFL linebacker loaned his state Senate bid about $230,000 — and there’s more where that came from. Harris, also the owner of two Beggars Pizza shops, would have the money to run fast and hard.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson said in an interview that she’s “leaning heavily” toward a bid and will be “ready to make an announcement in the next couple days.” A former chief of staff to Halvorson, Hutchinson took her boss’ state Senate seat when Halvorson went to Congress. In an interview, Hutchinson said: “For me, this is not about who I can be. It’s about what we can do. And I honestly think it’s time for a new generation of leadership.”
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