Special Election To Replace Jesse Jackson Jr. Will Showcase New Urban Political Landscape

In 2011, as Illinois politicians redrew congressional district maps, they exercised a power grab that was intended to protect those already in office or even gain more seats for Democrats. Officials split some of the state’s growing Latino population between districts already represented by Democrats and those where they hoped to see Republicans lose. An incumbent Democrat like former Chicago-area Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was supposed to have little problem holding a seat that for three decades has been held by an African-American. But in 2011, no one knew then that Jackson would spend a portion his term in seclusion trying to manage a mental illness. And no one knew that, after winning reelection earlier this month, Jackson would resign amid allegations of misappropriated campaign funds. Now, with Jackson out and Illinois set to stage a special election in February, Jackson’s former district could end up being represented by a white Democrat from Chicago’s suburbs. And for the crowded field of mostly black candidates that have expressed interest in Jackson’s old job, winning support of Latino voters and at least a smattering of white voters may be the key to victory. “Ironically, because of redistricting, what has long been a seat held by a black politician is going to require a black candidate that can bring together a kind of Barack Obama pan-ethnic coalition just to maintain the status quo,” said Laura Washington, a political consultant and former political science professor at De Paul University. CONTINUE READING…

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