Halvorson is the frontrunner to take over Jesse Jackson Jr.'s vacated seat. | AP Photo
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At first glance, Debbie Halvorson should have no business winning the Feb. 26 special election. The former Democratic congresswoman was crushed by Jackson in a primary last year. She's a white Democrat seeking to represent a district in which 54 percent of voters are African-American.
And she's an unapologetic Second Amendment backer -- with endorsements from the NRA in two of her previous congressional campaigns -- despite an outpouring of concern among voters and her campaign rivals about gun violence.
Yet there's reason to think Halvorson could eke out a win. She is a known entity in much of the district thanks to her time in Congress and earlier rise to state Senate majority leader -- the first woman to hold the post. Sixteen other candidates are vying for the Democratic nod, and all of her formidable competitors are African-American. That creates a real possibility that the black vote will splinter, opening a path for Halvorson.
She enjoys a narrow but critical base of support in the suburban and rural parts of the sprawling district, which stretches from the South Side of Chicago to rural Kankakee County about 50 miles to the south. The former congresswoman doesn't need to win a majority: The crowded Democratic field means it could take as little as 20 percent of the vote to clinch the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to winning the seat given the district's liberal makeup.
Halvorson received 29 percent against Jackson last year.
Now, black leaders -- concerned about Halvorson's position atop polls -- say they're prepared to make gun control the central issue in the contest. The goal is to paint her as an NRA ally who's too conservative for the seat and insensitive to Chicago's rising tide of gun violence.
Source: Politico | ALEX ISENSTADT