Monday, December 17, 2012

Illinois 2nd Congressional – a flood, or a dearth, of qualified candidates?

Some 16 people made their plea to Democratic Party officials to be the preferred candidate to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress, and yet all of them in their own way fall short of the man who was forced from office last month.
JACKSON: No new "Jr." in candidate field

Which sets up the big question. Are the people of the Far South Side, its surrounding suburbs and the rural areas that immediately border it facing a dearth of quality choices to pick from?

OR DO WE have a flood of quality and we’re just too blind to see it?

There have been some pundits around the country who are spewing out trash-talk these days about all the mediocrities that are crawling out of the woodwork to try to get themselves a “job” in Congress.

After all, if the official who wins the 2013 special elections manages to handle themselves right, this could be the government post that defines their professional careers in electoral politics.

Of course, many of these pundit types are the ones who are looking to be malcontents. They want to gripe, and they’re going to do so regardless of what the “facts” actually are. Some people just like to hear themselves complain.

ALTHOUGH WE OUGHT to admit that any of the potential candidates for the post are going to appear diminished compared to the man they’re replacing. Because in a sense, the namesake son of the civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson sets a standard that none of them can meet.
State Sen. Donne Trotter pleads with Dem Party officials to be the "present" in Congress. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

He was, in a sense, one of the “celebrity” types serving in Congress. He was, at one point, a legitimate candidate to move up to one of the top (mayor, U.S. Senate or governor) political posts.

If anything, it was the thought that his personal predicament created a situation in which all he had to look forward to was being representative of the Illinois Second Congressional district for another two decades (after having had the post for 17 years) that may have caused him to decide to chuck it.

It was probably that sense that Jackson was unique as a public official that caused at least some of those votes in the Nov. 6 general election (they were hoping there was a way he’d get around his legal predicament). Of course, there also were those who saw the mediocrity of the Jackson challengers last month who decided that Jackson and a special election in the future was preferable.

IN THAT SENSE, a Congressman Donne Trotter or Toi Hutchinson or Robin Kelly or Anthony Beale or David Miller is going to fall short. None of them are likely to have that national name recognition ever during their lives – especially not on the first day they approach Capitol Hill to serve.

Presuming, of course, that they win on Feb. 26 AND April 9.

But these aren’t exactly  no-names. We’re talking a long-time legislative leader in Trotter and a promising young legislator in Hutchinson (at 39, she could be around for a while and rise to levels of significance in Congressional status).
HUTCHINSON: The future?

Even the others have significant experience in Cook County government, the City Council or the state Legislature. They wouldn’t exactly be amateurs – even though former Rep. Debbie Halvorson tries to claim she’d be the only one who could get things done immediately.

IT IS THE reason why even those Democrats who have their preferred candidates aren’t badmouthing the opposition, and why you have party leadership talking about the quality of candidates that people will get to pick from as they try to replace Jackson in Washington.

And why we should all be watching closely come the first week of the new year – which is when these candidates have to “put up or shut up,” so to speak, and file nominating petitions.

The real candidates will weed out the fringe ones who were looking this weekend for their 5 minutes of fame in speaking before the Democratic slating committee.


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