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22 candidates files to fill ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat in Congress

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. File photo. |  Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. File photo. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 9, 2013 6:27AM



The flood gates that opened after U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from his seat last November closed on Monday with 22 people filing to represent the 2nd Congressional District.

With the crowded field of 17 Democrats and five Republicans, some candidates were baring their fund-raising credentials to set themselves apart from the pack.

The cadre of candidates is competing in a special primary election set for Feb. 26.

On Monday, onetime state representative Robin Kelly, who resigned from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s staff last month, announced she already raised $200,000 just since December.

Last week, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson announced she raised $130,000 despite December being “traditionally the most difficult fundraising month of the year.” Both Kelly and Hutchinson lauded their fund-raising prowess as a sign of widespread support within the sprawling district that includes the South Side of Chicago, south suburbs and runs down to Kankakee and Will counties.

One-term former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost against Jackson in a primary last year, didn’t disclose her total, saying she hadn’t added up the numbers yet. But Halvorson said she doesn’t have to work as hard at raising money to run ads because she’s already gone through the initial introduction to the district.

“People are very sick and tired of the amount of emails they’re getting from all these candidates. I’ve got the luxury of not having to do that,” Halvorson said on Monday. “We’re able to go back and just shore up ... We don’t have to start from scratch where a lot of candidates are in now.”

The wave of candidates interested in the seat came after Jackson resigned from his position in Congress. In his resignation letter, Jackson for the first time admitted he was under federal scrutiny and was in plea negotiations with authorities. Jackson was absent from Congress beginning in June after he said he suffered from bipolar depression.

Longtime political analyst Don Rose said not only will money be important in the race to replace Jackson but how a candidate spends it will be critical.

“There’s no question that fund-raising is important,” he said. “Nobody has a district-wide reputation so they simply [have] to get their message out. Money is a substantial part of the ballgame.”

Rose qualified that, however, pointing out that U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley was far outspent when he ran in a special election in 2009, and he won with about 22 percent of the vote.

Rose said Halvorson is the only candidate to have a district-wide name, having run in the primary and agreed she probably didn’t need to fund raise as much as other candidates.

Campaign disclosures are not yet due so it is not yet known where every candidate stands with raising money.

At least two of the candidates, however, have some personal wealth. That includes Napoleon Harris, who was just elected to the Illinois Senate and Joyce Washington. When Washington ran for U.S. Senate in 20004, she estimated her net worth was between $946,188 and $4.4 million.

Five Republicans filed for the seat, including former WVON radio host Lenny McAllister, a TV and radio commentator and rare conservative African American.

McAllister said he was putting fund-raising together but said he already had years of working in the community he could point to.

“People understand that there can actually be a moderate Republican that can talk to black America, but can also feel comfortable on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Other Democrats who have filed by the Monday deadline include Ald. Anthony Beale; ex-con and former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, of Dolton, who was replaced by Jackson; Victor Jonathan (formerly Victor Onafuye), of Country Club Hills, a South Side pastor; Clifford Eagleton, of Harvey, Gregory Haynes, of Lynwood; Charles Rayburn of Dolton; Anthony W. Williams of Dolton; Fatimah Muhammad of Chicago; Ernest Fenton of Markham; John Blyth of Chicago; Larry Pickens of Chicago; Patrick Brutus of Chicago.

Republican candidates are: McAllister, James Taylor Sr. of Bradley; Eric Wallace of Flossmoor; Paul McKinley of Chicago and Beverly Reid of Chicago.



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