The first two election surveys have been released for the Feb. 26 special Democratic primary race in Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District, and the polling leader in both instances isn’t who one would expect. Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11), hoping to split the 60 percent-plus, majority African-American voter contingent among at least six well-known black candidates and win with a small plurality coalition of white voters, appears to be in early position to achieve her strategic objective.
The Normington-Petts Democratic survey research firm just completed an internal poll (Jan. 8-10; 400 likely Democratic primary voters) for candidate Toi Hutchinson, who was appointed to replace Halvorson in the state Senate when the latter was first elected to Congress in 2008.
According to the N-P data, Halvorson jumps out to a 16-12 percent lead over Hutchinson. Following the two women are former Cook County CEO Robin Kelly (8 percent) and, rather surprisingly, disgraced ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds (7 percent) who served more than six years in federal prison for sexual and financial felonious acts. Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale trails the leaders with 5 percent. The poll shows that a full 40 percent of the Democratic electorate is undecided.
A second poll, this time conducted for candidate Robin Kelly (GBA Strategies; Jan. 3-7; 500 likely IL-2 Democratic primary voters) actually shows Halvorson to be in even stronger position. Not surprisingly, the poll’s sponsor performs better here, scoring 15 percent to Sen. Hutchinson’s 16 percent. But, it is the former congresswoman who posts a much stronger advantage as GBA projects her to be the choice of 22 percent of the respondents.
In two other states, the phenomenon of splitting the black vote in an African-American majority district has nominated a white Democrat. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) and Gary Peters (D-MI-14) both represent Voting Rights Act majority minority congressional districts. It remains to be seen if the Chicago black community will coalesce around one candidate in order to thwart Halvorson’s attempted comeback.
The 2nd District was formerly held by ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), who resigned shortly after the November election due to health and legal reasons. Though there will be a special general election on April 9, it is the Feb. 26 Democratic primary, without a run-off election, that will determine Jackson’s replacement. The eventual Republican nominee will have virtually no chance against the Democratic standard bearer in the April special.