Feigenholtz Has Financial Edge in 5th District Special

Posted March 2, 2009 at 6:34pm

A crowded field of 12 Democrats is running in today’s special election primary to succeed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who stepped down from his House seat earlier this year.

While there is no clear frontrunner in the race, the likely winner will be one of three leading contenders, and the victor of today’s primary is all but certain to win the April 7 special general election in the heavily Democratic northside Chicago district.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz has the financial edge, after announcing last week that she had raised $900,000 — including $100,000 from her own bank account — eclipsing all other candidates in the field. The only viable female candidate in the race has also been boosted by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent at least $250,000 on TV ads on her behalf.

The two other leading Democratic candidates, state Rep. John Fritchey and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, have raised significantly less than Feigenholtz. Fritchey raised $454,000 through mid-February, while Quigley raised $300,00 through the pre-primary reporting period ending Feb. 11.

The other elected official in the contest, Alderman Patrick O’Connor (D), raised $50,700 through mid-February, and he is not expected to win the primary.

But the race also features two outsider candidates who could win in an upset given the extremely crowded Democratic field: economist Charlie Wheelan and attorney Tom Geoghegan.

Meanwhile, last-minute donations from several high-profile Illinois political figures rolled into the bank accounts of two top-tier candidates, according to fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Feigenholtz received $2,300 from former Democratic Senate candidate Blair Hull, a major party donor who lost a 2004 primary bid after allegations of spousal abuse surfaced. J.B. Pritzker, the brother of billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker, also donated $2,400 to Feigenholtz in February. Penny Pritzker is a close ally of President Barack Obama, and she served as national finance chairwoman of his campaign.

Local news reports revealed this week that Fritchey collected donations from former fundraisers for disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was impeached and ousted from office last month. The fundraisers, Milan and Anne Petrovic, donated $4,800 total to Fritchey’s campaign.