Saturday, September 3, 2011

Jackson versus Halvorson: Will it get ugly? There’s no way it can’t

Debbie Halvorson is the former state legislator and one-term member of Congress who wants back into the political game. And it seems she’s willing to consider playing politics in a district that could result in stirring up ugly racial tensions.
HALVORSON: Does she really want it?

For if Halvorson seriously thinks she can unseat Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., she’s going to have to get into bed (symbolically, of course) with some fairly ugly attitudes and may wind up saying some things she will someday regret.

I ONLY HOPE she’s not destined to become the female version of Bernard Epton. He, of course, was the long-time state legislator from the Hyde Park neighborhood with a fairly liberal record who these days is only remembered for being Harold Washington’s GOP mayoral opponent in ’83.

Halvorson is a resident of Crete – one of those Chicago suburbs that lies just across the Cook/Will county line. And the newly-drawn congressional district boundaries for the next decade did a real number on Will County.

No longer is there one member of Congress whose district covers the bulk of the county – along with bits of surrounding territory. Now, the county is hacked up and split among so many districts – including a few that start in Chicago and work their way south through Will.

Those political operatives who drew the boundaries always knew it was possible that Halvorson would consider a comeback attempt (she lost in 2010 to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.). They figured she would try to run for office from one of the districts that included a part of Will County but that was either without an incumbent or had a weak incumbent.

BUT IT SEEMS that Halvorson is deciding that since her home is in Crete and it is now in the Illinois Second Congressional District, that she should consider running for that district’s seat. She told the SouthtownStar newspaper on Friday that she has filed a statement of candidacy for the Second District.

That action is not absolute. She could always change her mind and file a new one elsewhere. Or she could decide eventually not to run at all for a seat in Congress. But for now, she’s taking the actions necessary to raise money for a campaign against Jackson – who has long been a Halvorson critic.
EPTON: Will she learn from his mistakes?

It comes down to one of Jackson’s pet actions – he’s the loudest mouth in favor of a new Chicago-area airport near Peotone (just a couple of towns south of Crete). He views it as a way of forcing metropolitan officials to recognize that the South Side and surrounding suburbs are a full-fledged part of the Chicago area.

Halvorson views it as a Will County facility that should be run by Will County people and would be an asset that asserts Will County’s independent status within the Greater Chicago Area.

WHICH MEANS THE two have routinely squabbled throughout the years, including most recently when Jackson used his influence to kill off any chance Halvorson had of becoming director of the Illinois Department of Transportation (a post that would have given her some say over a Peotone airport).

Is this political payback by Halvorson – trying to dump Jackson from Congress because he stopped her from getting a director’s post that some political insiders say she was a long-shot for anyway?

If it is, it WILL be ugly.

Because there is a very real sentiment that will take place during the upcoming decade in that particular district. It is one that already has occurred in the Illinois First Congressional District, and will continue for as long as Bobby L. Rush is the representative.

JACKSON AND RUSH get elected with ease because the districts have their base in the Far South and South sides, respectively. They are majority African-American districts, even though their southern ends stretch into suburban areas have significant white populations.

That has been true for Rush, who has to deal with a certain element that is upset they are represented by a one-time Black Panther Party activist in Congress.

Now, it will be true for Jackson. There are those Will County people who will be upset that not only are they not represented by someone from a place like Joliet or Frankfort, they will have as their representation in Washington the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Race factors into this. Which is why I found it humorous this week when I happened to do some paying work by covering a speech Jackson gave at a community college in suburban Chicago Heights.

HE TOLD THE crowd that he only spoke about race relations because he was specifically asked to, and would love to talk about larger issues. But talking about race helped bolster his strength among his part of the congressional district.

He realizes that talking about how racial perceptions are keeping the South Side and surrounding suburbs economically strapped will be pleasing to people who will be offended by Halvorson’s appeal to people who want to think that Chicago is “invading” their home area.

Halvorson’s problem, however, is that the voters who are most willing to accept this line of logic on her part most likely are looking for candidates in places other than the Democratic Party.
JACKSON: Favored north of Steger Road?

She’s going to be asking the same people who eagerly dumped her in 2010 for a Republican (even though the bulk of Illinois voters went Democratic) to put aside their past hang-ups about her.

SHE MAY WELL wind up being the candidate who campaigns among Will County voters; never actually setting foot north of Steger Road (in Chicago terms, that would be 234th Street, A.K.A., the county line) during the election cycle.

Will she become the woman who desperately tells those Will County voters how they need to cast ballots for her in the 2012 Democratic primary, “before it’s too late?”


No comments: