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U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. May Face Challenge From Fellow Dem

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U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois)

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Illinois (CBS File Photo)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Illinois congressional remap was drafted to protect Democratic incumbents and to punish Republicans.

But as CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, in the 2nd District, it may produce an unintended consequence: the strongest primary challenge that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has ever faced.

Former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson is a mulling a comeback — a primary challenge that would pit her against fellow Democrat Jackson.

“People everywhere have been contacting me, and they want a representative in congress they can be proud of,” she says.

Jackson’s district is being radically changed. The current district begins in the South Shore and dives into the suburbs, barely dipping into Will County. It’s 63 percent African-American.

But the new district, taking effect in 2012, goes further south to Kankakee County and is just 53 percent African-American.

Jackson’s old district lost 75,000 voters, African Americans who comprise his base. Mapmakers, led by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, needed new territory to make up the loss.

“In a way, the mapmakers don’t care which Democrat wins the district, as long as a Democrat holds the district,” University of Illinois-Chicago political scientist Dick Simpson says.

That could mean opportunity for Halvorson, and a challenge for Jackson. She says the incumbent has had some “distractions lately.”

“As for character issues, I’m confident that my new constituents, giving me a chance, will learn a lot about me they will appreciate,” Jackson counters.

Those “character” issues include fallout from the Blagojevich trial, where testimony indicated a businessman offered the ex-governor bribes on Jackson’s behalf. Jackson was never charged with doing anything illegal.

Halvorson says she’ll decide within two weeks whether to run.

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