Race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. enters home stretch

theGRIO REPORT - By the end of the day Tuesday, there will finally be a winner to one of the most contentious Congressional races happening in the country...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

CHICAGO – By the end of the day Tuesday, there will finally be a winner to one of the most contentious Congressional races happening in the country.

Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District race has been under close watch since former embattled congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who had reportedly been experiencing health issues and was the subject of a federal probe, resigned from his position in November.

The race picked up even more steam when Jackson Jr. plead guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use. His wife, Sandi Jackson resigned from the Chicago City Council while both she and Jackson Jr. were under a federal investigation.

Jackson Jr. signed a plea deal pleading guilty to several charges, including mail fraud, false statements and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The same day, Sandi plead guilty, signed a plea deal and was charged with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011. 

Although as many as two dozen candidates have campaigned for the seat, two are considered frontrunners, one who has support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In a more than $2 million campaign of mailers and television commercials, Bloomberg endorses former State Rep. Robin Kelly.

The other is former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Jackson Jr. in the Democratic primary election in March, 2012. As the major white candidate, she’s counted on her name recognition and prior work in the district to win in a field where most of the African-American candidates could split the vote in the predominantly African-American area and where mostly blacks were running for the seat.

But since Bloomberg’s Independence, USA PAC began sponsoring ads touting Halvorson and State Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s  “A +” ratings with the National Rifle Association and other candidates have dropped out of the race, it’s given the run a new meaning. Since Chicago has recently garnered national attention on its gun violence issue, gun legislation has been the lead subject in the race to replace Jackson Jr.

A third candidate, Ald. Anthony Beale, is another who’s being considered a frontrunner by many. Jackson Jr. was once his mentor and he is one of the only few candidates in the race who actually live in the city of Chicago.

While four Republican candidates are currently in the race, the Democratic primary winner is almost certain to win the April 9 special general election in the heavily-Democratic district.

Earlier in the race for the 2nd Congressional District, many others were rumored to be running, including Sandi Jackson, Jackson Jr.’s brother Jonathan Jackson, Attorney Sam Adam Jr., Ald. Will Burns, Sen. Kwame Raoul and former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Although he was considering a run, Chicago “rooftop pastor” Corey Brooks decided not to compete for the seat.

Fewer than 20 of the original aspirants have stayed in the race. State Senators Hutchinson, Napoleon Harris and Donne Trotter all withdrew and endorsed Kelly.

Candidates will give one last push for support in the 2nd Congressional District race Tuesday, with scheduled campaign stops throughout the day and parties to watch results come in at night.

Democrats running for the 2nd Congressional District seat:
Debbie Halvorson, of Crete
Robin Kelly, of Matteson
Anthony Beale, of Chicago
Mel Reynolds, of Dolton
Larry D. Pickens, of Chicago
Ernest B. Fenton, of Markham
Rev. Anthony Williams, of Dolton
Joyce Washington, of Chicago
Fatimah N. Muhammad, of Chicago
Charles Rayburn, of Dolton
Clifford J. Eagleton, of Harvey
Victor Jonathan (formerly known as Victor Onafuye), of Country Club Hills
John Blyth, of Chicago
Gregory Haynes, of Lynwood

Republicans running for the 2nd Congressional District seat:
Lenny McAllister, of Maywood
Eric M. Wallace, of Flossmoor
Paul McKinley, of Chicago
Beverly E. Reid, of Chicago

Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.