Reporting Derrick Blakley
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(CBS) – Former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson is set to formally announce she will run against Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. in the Democratic primary in the 2nd District next year.
It would be the first big election fight of Jackson’s career.
Jackson and Halvorson, former colleagues in Congress, have been feuding for years over a proposed third major airport near Peotone. Halvorson now aims to boot Jackson from office.
Halvorson, who is also a former state senator, spoke exclusively with CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley on Wednesday, a day ahead of her formal announcement.
Halvorson said she knows Jackson could well spend six times more on this race than she’ll be able to raise, but as a former one-term Congresswoman herself, Halvorson said she also knows the new 2nd District intimately and believes voters are crying out for a choice.
“I don’t see what he’s done in his last 15 years as far as bringing jobs to the area,” Halvorson said. “We’ve got unemployment that is still skyrocketing and there are people that are hurting.”
Despite his long tenure, Halvorson said Jackson simply hasn’t delivered for the 2nd District and that Jackson has been both ineffective and out of touch.
Asked if she’d call Jackson an “absentee congressman,” Halvorson said, “That’s not for me to say. That’s for the voters to decide, but when someone doesn’t come home on weekends, they live in D.C., they raise their family in D.C., you know what? There’s a lot to be said about that.”
The new 2nd District, drawn to help preserve an African American majority on the new Illinois congressional map, stretches far beyond Chicago – as far south as Kankakee – and southwest, including Crete – Havlorson’s quiet, semi-rural hometown.
African Americans will make up slimmer majority in the new 2nd District, making up 53 percent of the district’s population.
“You don’t want to say it because, hopefully, we’re past it, but obviously race is going to play an issue in this campaign,” said Paul Green, a professor of public policy at Roosevelt University.
So will Jackson’s recent problems, including an extramarital affair with a Washington restaurant hostess and alleged ties to the corruption case against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Although Jackson has never been charged with wrongdoing, federal prosecutors have said that an Indian businessman and Jackson fundraiser offered to raise millions for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson being appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2008.
Halvorson said she believes those issues will be problems for Jackson in any attempt to get re-elected next year.
“All I know is, the people who are reaching out to me over his distractions, they are going to cause him trouble,” Halvorson said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Jackson said he’s brought more than $900 million in federal investment to the 2nd District.
But Halverson claimed that money has been passed around to south suburban mayors and, while it’s bought their loyalty to Jackson, it hasn’t brought permanent jobs to the area.
Halvorson is a definite underdog against Jackson. Most observers have said it’s Jackson’s race to lose. The difference is, for the first time in years, Jackson’s facing a candidate that possibly could pull it off.