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2nd Cong. District race begins to heat up

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The race is on to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress and Saturday some candidates met to discuss the issues.

The 2nd Congressional District includes Chicago's South Side and stretches down to Kankakee.

For little over an hour six of the men and women hoping to fill the Congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr.'s resignation last November answered questions in the small, impoverished community of Hopkins Park, just east of Kankakee. Their concerns echoed those in much of the 2nd Congressional District.

"You need to make sure you have an aggressive congressman who goes after the money to bring resources back to this particular district," said Ald. Anthony Beale.

Now that former frontrunner, State Senator Donne Trotter has dropped out of the race because of pending felony gun charges against him, 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale is one of the stronger candidates left in the field.

Saturday, he focused on what he says is a proven record of electability and job creation as a reason to elect him.

State Senator Toi Hutchison, the only other major candidate to attend the forum also focused on her experience, particularly when it comes to reaching out to the other side of the aisle in today's partisan climate.

"I would be leaving the majority and going to the minority in Congress, which means you have to have good relationships on the other side of the aisle," Hutchinson said. "You have to learn how to negotiate, how to talk to people who don't agree with you."

Not in attendance, but also thought to be in contention for the democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District are former State Representative Robin Kelly and former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson.

"Debbie Halvorson has a strong base in the south suburbs," said ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington. "She's the only white candidate running in a race with multiple black candidates, so that gives her an edge. It doesn't mean she's a sure winner, but not only is she a white candidate, she's the only person who sat in Congress and that gives her an advantage as well."

But Washington says without a clear front runner to take trotter's place, the February 26 primary is still wide open.

"We have five or six strong candidates with good resumes, so I think it's going to be a tough fight," she said. "This is a short turnaround race, so you have to raise a lot of money and show that you can bring home the bacon."

The primary will take place on February 26. The general election will be little more than a month later, on April 9. But again, at this point it really is any body's race.

The only thing we can predict with some certainty is that, in the end, whoever wins the congressional seat will most likely be a Democrat.

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