Reporting Derrick Blakley
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CHICAGO (CBS) – U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was facing a new obstacle in his fight to retain his seat in Congress amid his toughest primary challenge yet.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, a new super PAC (political action committee) has targeted Jackson, and the company picked to build his pet airport project has become mired in an international scandal.
Jackson was delivering Valentine’s Day gifts to seniors on Tuesday, campaigning like he never has before.
“I’ve never run this hard, and we’re running very hard,” Jackson said.
It’s the first time Jackson has faced a serious re-election challenge in the Democratic primary and former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson has been hammering him relentlessly.
“This is a referendum on Jesse Jackson Jr.’s inability and ineffectiveness in Congress, nothing more, nothing less,” Halvorson said Tuesday.
Jackson has been targeted by Houston-based super PAC, the “Campaign for Primary Accountability,” which is funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, the father of Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.
So-called super PACS are permitted to collect unlimited donations to create ads or other campaign items for or against any candidate, so long as they do not directly coordinate with the candidates they are helping.
“What I’ve encouraged my opponent to do is to … denounce the involvement of a super PAC in the 2nd congressional district. We’ve never had that before. It’s not necessary in a campaign between two Democrats, an intra-party struggle,” Jackson said.
But Halvorson said, “This is about him, this isn’t not about me. And if he had been doing his job, they wouldn’t be going after him. They’re not trying to help me. They’re trying to get rid of him.”
Another potential Jackson obstacle was news reports that executives at Canadian construction giant SNC Lavalin – picked by Jackson to build the Peotone airport he is seeking to open – have been accused of plotting smuggle Libyan dictator Mohammar Ghaddafi’s son into Mexico.
“Now that its out in the open, they need to be investigated. This is not a company that we want doing business in Illinois,” Halvorson said.
But Jackson is standing behind them.
“They stand by their commitment, along with the government of Canada, which has now backed the project and specifically is backing this corporation to build the project in Illinois,” Jackson said.
Jackson sounded a bit beleaguered on Tuesday, acknowledging he could lose this race, especially if his traditional backers don’t get to the polls. He said, if that happens, he could live with it, but he’s not expecting to lose.
With Chicago voter registration the lowest since 1944, this election might turn on which candidate can get their voters to the polls and just how much Jackson opposition there may be in the new, southern part of the redrawn district, which stretches all the way to Kankakee.