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Second Congressional District is race to watch on election day


    Brenda Sheriff, right, of the Chicago Southside NAACP asks questions Thursday, February 21, 2013, of 2nd Congressional District candidates during a forum co-hosted by the civil rights organization and the Chicago Defender. Several would-be voters at the forum said they are ready for change in the district. Defender/Worsom Robinson


    Turnout is expected to be low Tuesday as voters head to the polls in the 2nd Congressional District race. The Democratic and Republican winners in Tuesday’s primary will then square off in the April special election.


    Presumed frontrunners – all Democrats – made last minute pushes Monday, with Ald. Anthony Beale and Debbie Halvorson greeting morning commuters on the south end of the Red Line. Robin Kelly was also out Monday stumping for support.


    Beale said his time as head of the 9th Ward has been a “training ground” for a rise to congressman. He will watch Tuesday’s election results from his campaign headquarters at 28 E. 112th Place.


    Halvorson’s blunt “no” that she would not support a ban on assault weapons drew grunts from would-be voters at a forum held earlier in the campaign. She defended her stance saying she would work to “broker a (gun legislation) deal that is fair for all sides.”


    The former congressman will host an election night watch party at Balagio Ristorante, 17501 Dixie Highway in south suburban Homewood.


    Both candidates blasted Kelly’s acceptance of support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The south suburban Matteson resident had been a favorite early on in the race, and shot back at criticism of her anti-guns ads paid for by billionaire Bloomberg’s super PAC.


    Kelly, former chief administrator to Cook County board President Toni Preckwinkle, called the uproar over the ads “ridiculous” and insists that she doesn’t even personally know Bloomberg. She will be in the south suburbs as results come in election night.


    Ahead of Tuesday’s election, dozens of constituents and other concerned citizens turned out for the candidates forum co-hosted by the Chicago Southside chapter of the NAACP and the Chicago Defender.


    The Feb. 21 event was held on the Far South Side of the city at St. John Church, 211 E. 115th St., and included Republican and Democratic candidates. Kelly did not attend.


    The candidates discussed Thursday the environmental issues facing the district including landfills, health issues including the prevalence of asthma among children in the district and even the foul smells that emanate from the water treatment facility.


    Education issues were squarely focused on the need for early childhood education programs, access to vocational training, support for programs that lead to GEDs and how students are being prepared for a globally competitive marketplace.  


    The 2nd Dist. is historically Democratic-loyal and made up mostly of African Americans. It includes parts of the South Shore community and the Far South Side in Chicago, the south suburbs – all in Cook County, parts of Will County and all of Kankakee County. 


    Tuesday’s primary and the subsequent special election in April resulted from former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigning in November, weeks after being re-elected. He cited health issues in his resignation, but last week he pled guilty in federal court to charges of misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. He awaits sentencing, expected this summer.


    Would-be voters at Thursday’s forum told the Defender they are ready for change.


    Delilah Stidwell said the pool of 20 candidates makes it difficult for voters to sort things out. She attended this and other forums listening for candidates’ plans and solutions. 


    “Education, gun violence, no jobs, all of those are issues I want hear somebody talk about,” she said.


    Stidwell said she’s attended at least four forums and continues to hear “the same thing.” The educator explained that she is ready for a representative who isn’t beholden to another political or other entity.


    “I think it’s time for a change and that’s what I want,” she said. “I think it’s time for us to put ‘the little man’ in, give somebody a real chance” to bring change.


    Candidate Joyce Washington may have Stidwell’s vote.


    William Payton Sr. said it is “unfair for the people to have go this” special election in the first place. He expressed further concerned about how the race is going.


    “I’m really concerned about Robin Kelly with the Bloomberg PAC … how people are buying this election,” he told the Defender after the forum. “I don’t think it’s fair.”


    Still, the suburban South Holland resident said issues in the district are more important to him.


    “The issues are greater than guns,” he said. “The issue is better health care, better jobs, the rail system, the (proposed) Peotone airport.”


    The forum brought him closer to a decision for the Feb. 26 election. He said he’s considering Beale and Halvorson.


    Polls open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.



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