Halvorson holds narrow lead for Jackson Jr. seat in internal poll from Hutchinson

Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) holds a narrow lead in a crowded primary field to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), according to an internal poll from one of her rivals, Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D).

Halvorson sits at 16 percent, according to the poll, with Hutchinson at 12 percent. Former Cook County Administrator Robin Kelly (D) sits at 8 percent, while state Sen. Napoleon Harris (D) and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale (D) pull 7 percent apiece. Former Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.), who served time for sex-related charges in the 1990s, takes 5 percent support. Approximately 40 percent of voters remain undecided, a sign of how unpredictable this low-turnout primary's results are at this point.

The race in the district is likely to split along racial and geographic lines, as a slight majority of voters hail from outside of Chicago's city limits. Halvorson, the only white candidate in the race, who represented part of the district from 2009 to 2011 and ran against Jackson in 2012, starts off with 64 percent name identification.

While internal poll numbers should always be viewed with some skepticism, Halvorson's mediocre starting figures aren't a good sign for her since she's the best-known of the serious candidates. If one of the African-American candidates can gain traction, he or she is likely to overtake Halvorson in the primary, which will occur in late February.

According to Hutchinson's poll, she stands the best chance at doing so: After voters are presented with positive and negative statements about each candidate, she jumps to a 22-to-16 percent lead, with Kelly in third place at 10 percent. The poll doesn't provide which questions were asked, however, making it impossible to tell if the questions were equally worded for each candidate.

Hutchinson, whose state Senate district covers much of the suburban portion of the district, has 53 percent name identification. Reynolds has 77 percent name identification, showing he has almost no room to grow. The other candidates' name identification numbers are not given, suggesting they're likely lower than Hutchinson's. Most of them hail from the city or the inner suburbs.

The poll of 400 likely primary voters was conducted from Jan. 8-10 by Democratic pollster Normington Petts, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.