Jesse Jackson Jr. Wins Easily in a Democratic Primary Challenge in Illinois

The longtime congressman handily beat challenger Debbie Halvorson, who had previously served in Congress.

Posted: 03/21/2012 02:15 PM EDT
Jesse Jackson Jr.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. prevailed in a strong challenge in the Democratic primary in Illinois.

With 97 percent of the vote reported, Jackson had 71 percent of the vote compared with the 29 percent for Debbie Halvorson, a former member of Congress who waged a vigorous campaign against the nine-term congressman.

The centerpiece of Halvorson’s campaign related to the ethics of Jackson. Specifically, she repeatedly pointed out that the incumbent congressman is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation related to the wrongdoing by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But Jackson, who has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, undertook a forceful campaign himself. He sought to highlight to voters his record of bringing resources back to the district and his role as a fighter for progressive programs, including health care reform.

Jackson has won his Democratic district repeatedly since he prevailed in a special election in 1995. After Illinois lost one congressional seat after the redistricting, Jackson’s district was re-carved to add more rural areas to Jackson's mix of Chicago neighborhoods and Southern suburbs. That shift created more opportunity for a challenger.

“From Chicago to the suburbs all the way to Kankakee, we won them all. I have been elected and re-elected 10 times to Congress, and this time is the most meaningful,” Jackson told supporters after the election results came in.

It was a primary campaign with racial overtones. The district, now represented by the son of the noted civil rights leader whose name he bears, has been represented by Black incumbents for three decades. Halvorson, who is white, represented the adjoining 11th Congressional District until she was defeated by a Republican, Adam Kinzinger, in 2010.


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(Photo: YURI GRIPAS/Landov)

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