Could the Tea Party Win Jr.’s Seat?


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 Rep. Bobby Rush says he’s worried that if too many Democrats jump into the all-comers special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., a “Tea Party” candidate will win the seat.

That’s because a special election is a non-partisan, first past the post contest. In 2009, Rep. Mike Quigley won Rahm Emanuel’s old congressional seat with only 22 percent of the vote. That’s less than the 24 percent Republican Brian Woodworth received against Jackson on Nov. 6.


As part of his re-map of the state’s congressional districts, House Speaker Michael Madigan extended the 2nd District deep into Will County, diluting its African-American population and its Democratic vote. The idea was to corral as many Republicans as possible into Democratic-leaning districts. The district’s Cook Partisan Voting Index, which measures a party’s dominance in a district, dropped from D+36 to D+27. Madigan expected the election to be settled in the Democratic primary. But now it’s possible his gerrymandering could bite him.


Ward Room left a message with Woodworth, asking whether he plans to run in the special election. We haven’t heard back yet. Even if he did, it’s not likely he’d get that much. Woodworth was running in a three-person field, against Jackson and independent Marcus Lewis, who received 13 percent of the vote. In a special election, Woodworth — who has never held office — would be competing against a much larger group of experienced politicians.


If “Tea Party” is a code word for “white” — and I wouldn’t put that past Bobby Rush — then there may be a problem.


Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson is considering running for the seat. Halvorson lost this year’s Democratic primary to Jackson, 71 percent to 29 percent. But she has name recognition, which is hard to build in a three-month-long campaign, and represented part of the district in Congress from 2009 to 2011. If Halvorson can hold on to her 29 percent, she could defeat a bunch of politicians who divide the black vote.


If that’s what Rush is worried about, then he should worry. 



This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.

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