Polls opened at 6 a.m. and turnout was extremely low as Chicago voted to select a replacement for disgraced congressman Jessie Jackson Jr. According to a Feb. 26 Chicago Tribune article, Rep. Debbie Halvorsen conceded to the winner, Robin Kelly who will be the 30th African-American woman elected to the House.
Fourteen Democrats and four Republicans vied for the 2nd District seat, but Halvorson and Kelly stayed in the lead. Alderman Anthony Beale came in third in the polls. Before the election, low voter turnout was expected to be a problem. Only two percent of voters voted in early balloting, prompting former congresswoman Halvorson to say "If you stay home, I don't want to hear anybody complain about what's going on in Congress, because this is your chance to make a difference."
According to a Feb. 25 Huffington Post article, a Victory Research poll in mid February had Republican Halvorson at a 21 percent to 17 percent lead over Kelly. However, Kelly's internal polling earlier in the month gave her a 26 percent to 22 percent lead. The polling differences may have been due to Democratic Sen. Toi Hutchinson and other Democrats leaving the race to put their support behind Kelly.
Halvorson was once aligned with the National Rifle Association but has backed away from that connection. She was attacked in a series of negative ads by NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political action committee. The ads highlighted her "A" rating from the NRA, but some believe that they might have backfired.
As Chicago voted to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., the election outcome depended on voter turnout, concerns about the economy and concerns about gun control. The 2nd District combines the city's southern suburbs, incorporates parts of Cook, Will and Kankakee counties and includes Chicago's far southeast side.
Jackson Jr. resigned last fall from Congress and recently entered a guilty plea to charges that he and his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, spent $750,000 of campaign funds on personal items. Before he resigned, Jackson disappeared from public view. He sought treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic.