By J. Coyden Palmer
Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader
STATE SENATOR Donne Trotter emerged from Saturday’s slating by Democratic party leaders as the favorite to replace former Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr. But neither Trotter nor any other candidate got a majority of the vote.
Over a dozen announced candidates for the 2nd Congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr. last month told a group of Democratic leaders on Saturday why they should be the party’s candidate. The slating, held at South Suburban College in South Holland, brought out up and coming politicians, veteran lawmakers and those just trying to make a name for themselves. The all-day event had several light-hearted moments, in addition to serious questions being asked by party leaders of potential candidates. Each of the 15 people slated to talk had 15 minutes to impress party bosses.
Absent from the event was Cong. Mel Reynolds, who has indicated that he will run as an independent and Sandi Jackson, wife of the former congressman, who up until last week was being rumored as running for her husband’s old seat. Those the committee members liked at times were brought into a separate, private room for more questions. But the committee also offered very harsh words for some of those like state Senator elect Napoleon Harris and former state Rep. David Miller. Harris, who just elected on Nov. 6 and has never served in public office, said he is running because people in his community are telling him he should run.
“My heart is for the people,” Harris said. “I will still be serving people of the 15th district. I believe I can serve them on a federal level as well.” But Chicago Ald. Leslie Hairston did not believe what Harris was saying and said Harris needs to stick to doing things at a job he has not even started yet. Hairston seemed particularily bugged that Harris felt he should be able to jump to the front of the line when there are other lawmakers that have put in their time and perhaps may deserve the opportunity.
“You haven’t even been sworn in yet and you’re running for another seat?” asked Hairston with a sense of indignation.
Former Rep. David Miller’s presentation turned off some members of the committee. Miller a local dentist, at times was screaming into the microphone which had to be turned down. Miller said healthcare is a right and that he would fight if elected to bring it to all members of the district. But his vocal volume and oratory skills were more suited for a sermon and committee member Ald. Carrie Austin told him so. “Perhaps you should drop the congressional campaign and go to ministry school,” said Austin drawing laughter from the crowd, but not from Miller.
Rev. Anthony Williams, who ran as an independent and lost in November, was back again. This time he was wearing a black armband to symbolize those who have lost their lives or been a victim of violence. Williams said if elected he will seek to bring more anti-crime resources to the district.
Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale told party bosses if elected he would work to extend the CTA Red Line train to 130th street to serve far South Side and South Suburban residents. Beale is being pushed by Austin, but will have a tough road in the race because of his strong ties to Jesse Jackson Jr. The two were political allies until just a couple of years ago. Former state Rep. Robin Kelly said she believes the district is set for a “renaissance in the wings.” Kelly is one of four female candidates in the race. Debbie Halvorson, who has served in Congress before, is the only white candidate. Halvorson said the district has its own brand of terrorism going on with all the violence and is shocked that nobody seems to want to address that problem.
State Senator Donne Trotter, arrested last week after trying to take a gun through airport security, got the most applause and support. Trotter was one of the candidates taken into the behind closed-door meeting. He told reporters they only asked him one question about the gun charge. Trotter tooted his horn when he was stating his case. He said he has been a lawmaker a long time and his record speaks for itself.
“As a lawmaker you’re either sitting at the table or on the menu,” Trotter said. “I’ve ordered great things from the menu for our community.”
At the end, the slate approved for an open primary as none of the candidates got a majority of the vote. Meeting Chair Frank Zuccarelli reported the closed-door voting would remain private. So with no consensus candidate, and the primary less that 60 days away, political analysts say voters can expect to see an ugly campaign, one where there may be five or six legitimate candidates come election day.