Election: Drama Building in 2nd Congressional District Race

Deb Halvorson Photo
Deb Halvorson has been the target of TV attack ads from Michael Bloomberg's Super PAC.
The ads support her opponent, Robin Kelly, and have focused on Halvorson's "A rating"
from the NRA. (Photo/Josclynn Brandon)

By Josclynn Brandon
The Red Line Project

Posted: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013

With the 2nd congressional district election just a week away, the number of candidates has decreased, the personal attacks increasing along with alliances and several press conferences.

The 22 candidates who filed has dropped to 19, five Republicans and 14 Democrats, in the race to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was charged with the misuse of campaign funds and left the office with medical issues last year. He cut a plea deal last Friday and faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

But the controversy doesn't end with Jackson. The 2nd District drama has extended to the special election on Feb. 26, with Michael Bloomberg's Super PAC targeting former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson in TV attack ads and supporting her main competition, former state Rep. Robin Kelly.

Halvorson called a press conference on Monday to attack Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to buy the election. Kelly told the media she has no ties to Bloomberg Super PAC. Toi Hutchinson, another front-runner, dropped out of the race over the weekend after being targeted in the ads, which focus on the NRA's "A rating" for Halvorson and Hutchinson.

“Robin is a friend, and has captured momentum in pulling our community together,” Hutchinson said in a news release on Sunday. “I am simply unwilling to risk playing a role going forward that could result in dividing our community at a time when we need unity more than ever.”

Democrat Patrick Brutus, of Chicago, dropped out on Monday. He also backed Kelly.

Robin Kelly Photo

Besides Kelly (left) and Hutchinson, there are several other notable candidates running for the seat, which stretches from Chicago’s South Side to the south suburbs and Kankakee/ Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), Paul McKinley, of Chicago; and Lenny McAllister; of Maywood.

Former Rep. Mel Reynolds, who was convicted of sex-related charges and federal financial and campaign fraud charges, is also running. At a candidate’s forum last week, Reynolds spoke on his tarnished reputation, and said he’s “learned from his mistakes.”

State Rep. Napoleon Harris (D) dropped out of the race at the end of January, and backed Kelly, saying they have similar philosophies.

Besides being endorsed by her former running mates, Kelly has recently been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, and, of course, Bloomberg's PAC.

“I think he’s endorsing what I stand for,” Kelly said in an interview with WGN. “He doesn’t know me. I have had no contact with his PAC.”

But Bloomberg’s Super PAC isn’t endorsing everyone.

The Super PAC, which opposes local, state and federal candidates against gun control measures,  paid for a reported $2 million in TV ads attacking Halvorson, and most recently Hutchinson, for their high NRA rating.

“Obviously Mayor Bloomberg and his billions have decided he wants to come buy an election in Illinois,” Halvorson told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s quite over-the-top. I think it’s probably done wonders not only for my name ID but the support people have for me."

Although gun control has become a major issue in this election, and PAC continues to attack Halvorson, she says her message for the campaign is still jobs and economic development.  

“If we can do something about unemployment and underemployment, that everything else would come along,” Halvorson said. “People should never go to bed hungry. People should have a roof over their heads. Economic development and jobs would fix a lot of that.”

The primary election for the Democratic and Republican candidates will take place Tuesday, Feb. 26. Early voting has already begun and ends on Feb. 23. The special election will match the Democratic winner and the Republican winner on April 9.

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