Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson received the backing of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday in the special election for the 2nd District.
Preckwinkle is one of Chicagoland’s top elected officials, and her support will help Hutchinson in the crowded Democratic primary, scheduled for Feb. 26.
“A wildly popular figure such as President Preckwinkle gives Hutchinson an important boost,” said Tom Bowen, a media strategist and former political adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s resignation prompted the special election in this heavily Democratic,black-majority district on the South Side. The Democratic field is large and varied: Alderman Anthony Beale, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, former NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris, Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly, former Rep. Mel Reynolds and Hutchinson.
This month, the Hutchinson and Kelly campaigns separately released polls that showed Halvorson with a single-digit lead. The former one-term congresswoman lost re-election in 2010 in a nearby, more conservative district. She unsuccessfully challenged Jackson in the 2012 primary in the 2nd District and, as a result, has a strong advantage in name identification for this special election.
Preckwinkle said she “felt compelled” to endorse in the race because of Halvorson’s lead in the polls, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.
“I will add that she is also the most conservative candidate running and was one of the most conservative Democratic members of Congress in all of Illinois,” Preckwinkle said.
Halvorson was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in her previous runs. But Hutchinson also enjoyed support from a local gun rights group, the Illinois State Rifle Association, as a state lawmaker.
It’s an important issue in Chicago, which has experienced gun violence in recent years concentrated on the city’s south and west sides. This week, Kelly called on Hutchinson and Halvorson to release the NRA questionnaires they completed as candidates in other races.
“I think the Kelly campaign is putting Toi Hutchinson and Debbie Halvorson in an NRA box together — I don’t think Preckwinkle’s endorsement will eliminate that point of contrast," Bowen said.