Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) will run against Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) in a new Chicago-based congressional district, she announced Thursday morning.
The race sets up a clash between Halvorson, who served one term before losing her reelection bid to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) last fall, and Jackson, a longtime political fixture in Chicago. It also sets up what could be a racially charged primary between Halvorson, who is white and cut a centrist profile in Congress, and Jackson, the African-American son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson Sr.
In her announcement, Halvorson took a shot at Jackson's record.
"Our families are facing serious challenges, and they need a serious member of Congress who can get things done," she said in a statement. "Our neighbors don't need rhetoric, they need results, and I've delivered actual results for nearly 20 years. I'm running to bring real representation, real leadership and real results back to our district."
Jackson responded by touting some of his actions in Congress and painting Halvorson as a political opportunist. "During the past 16 years I have maintained a narrow focus on bringing jobs to the Southland. I've secured more $900 million in federal investments in the 2nd congressional district — more than any other congressman in the state during that period," he said. "People today want more jobs and less political infighting."
The new district encompasses much of Jackson's current district but was stretched far into the southern and southwest Chicago suburbs in order to increase the percentage of African-Americans there.
Jackson did not complain when the map was drawn and passed, but after it became clear Halvorson might challenge him, he expressed outrage over it.
The lines are unlikely to change despite his complaints and a Republican lawsuit seeking to strike it down. But Jackson starts with a strong advantage in the primary — he represents much of the new district, while Halvorson represented parts of the new suburban territory, and the Democratic primary vote there is likely to be dominated by African-American voters.