Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s (D-IL-2) resignation from the House became official on Nov. 21, thus starting the special election clock. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) will make an announcement today setting the election calendar, but local officials in the three-county region that comprises the 2nd District have already asked for a waiver from the scheduling law. Should Quinn agree to bypass the special election timing requirement, judicial approval will be required.
Illinois election law states that the governor has five days to call a special election in the event of a vacancy in Congress or for state office. The vacancy is supposed to be filled within 115 days after the date of resignation, but the county officials are asking that the election be postponed to coincide with their municipal and local elections already scheduled for April 9. The special election law would require that both the nominating and special general elections occur before March 16. Quinn has already indicated that his election calendar plan will be both “… fair to the electorate and as economical as possible for taxpayers,” according to his original statement. It is expected that he will make the election concurrent with the regular municipal election date since the two dates are only three weeks apart.
The election officials have also requested that the governor place the nominating election on the same date as their regularly scheduled municipal and local primary, which is Feb. 26. Since the 2nd District is heavily Democratic, it is this party’s primary vote that will be determinative, as the general election will merely be pro forma. Therefore, it is the February date that becomes critical for this replacement process.
Jackson’s resignation is due to health reasons and an ongoing federal investigation into whether he illegally used campaign funds to cover personal expenses, as outlined in his official letter to Speaker John Boehner.
Expect a large Democratic field to compete in the special primary. Already, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11), originally elected in the old 11th District but defeated in 2010 after one term, has officially announced her candidacy. She opposed Jackson in the 2012 Democratic primary but secured only 23.6 percent of the vote.
Since Illinois has no run-off, Halvorson is hoping to unify the smaller white vote, which may be enough to secure victory if the African-Americans split among many candidates. IL-2 has a black population of 62.4 percent. Two other majority African-American districts, Tennessee’s 9th CD (Rep. Steve Cohen) and Michigan’s 14th (Rep. Gary Peters), currently send white males to Washington, winning under similar circumstances to what Halvorson hopes will occur in this upcoming special election.
Other individuals said to be considering running to replace Jackson are the former congressman’s brother Jonathan Jackson, prominent local Chicago pastor Corey Brooks, attorney Sam Adam Jr., state senators Toi Hutchison and Donne Trotter, Chicago Aldermen Anthony Beale and Will Burns, and former state Reps. David Miller and Robin Kelly. All are Democrats.
The 2nd District encompasses the south Chicago area in Cook County and includes part of Will County and all of Kankakee.