Jesse Jackson Jr. Faces Tough Primary Battle for His Seat in Congress

Jesse Jackson Jr. Faces Tough Primary Battle for His Seat in Congress

Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of the noted civil rights activist, is facing a former congresswoman in a race that has been heated and laced with racial overtones.

Voters in Illinois are not just voting for Republican presidential candidates. There is also a hotly contested race in the Chicago area for the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat currently held by Jesse Jackson Jr.

The nine-term son of the civil rights leader, whose name he bears, is facing a challenge from fellow Democrat Debbie Halvorson, a former one-term member of Congress.

Halvorson has made as a centerpiece of her campaign issues related to the ethics of Jackson. Specifically, she has repeatedly pointed out that the incumbent congressman is the subject of a House Committee on Ethics investigation that is related to the wrongdoing by now-imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Jackson has denied any wrongdoing and has undertaken a vigorous campaign. He has repeatedly reminded voters of 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.

Halvorson, who served one term and lost her seat in Congress in 2010, decided to take him on.

There are also decidedly racial overtones to the contest. The district, now represented by the son of the noted Black civil rights leader, has been represented by Black incumbents for three decades. Halvorson, who is white, represented the adjoining 11th Congressional District until she was defeated by Republican Adam Kinzinger, in 2010.

Jackson has faced a series of embarrassing headlines in recent years. They include a congressional ethics investigation as well as accusations that his supporters sought to pay convicted former governor Blagojevich for Jackson's appointment to the United States Senate once held by President Obama, and revelations about marital infidelity.

BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos, and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices.

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


Latest in news