The first and most important step to replacing resigned Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) occurs tomorrow as Democrats and Republicans go to the polls in Illinois to choose their respective nominees. Former Cook County CEO Robin Kelly appears best positioned to win the Democratic primary. Because this Chicago-anchored seat is so heavily Democratic (Obama ’12: 81 percent), tomorrow’s party primary is tantamount to victory in the April 9 special general election.
Originally, it appeared that the majority African-American Chicago vote could split among as many as four candidates, thus potentially allowing former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) to construct a coalition of less liberal, suburban, and rural voters in order to cobble together a victorious plurality.
Kelly’s ability to coalesce Chicago political leaders, such as Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL-1), Mike Quigley (D-IL-5), Danny Davis (D-IL-7), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), around her candidacy, and then winning state Sen. Napoleon Harris and Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s endorsements after they both withdrew as candidates, has clearly made her tomorrow’s electoral favorite. Getting the lion’s share of the Chicago vote will guarantee victory in the Democratic primary.
Super PAC expenditure also besieged Halvorson. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC spent a reported $2.2 million on anti-Halvorson ads in the Chicago market disparaging the former congresswoman and state Senate majority leader for receiving an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg’s PAC highlighted Halvorson voting against assault weapons ban legislation and supporting a law that Independence USA said allowed “criminals” to carry loaded weapons across state lines.
Five little-known Republicans vie for their party’s nomination, but the GOP result is not particularly important as it relates to eventually filling the seat. The April 9 special general election is concurrent with the state’s municipal election date, thus explaining the long post-primary cycle.