Freezing rain began to slick over the sidewalks this morning just as Democratic candidate for the 2nd congressional district Debbie Halvorson voted at the Steger Community Center.
Former congresswoman Halvorson is one of 18 candidates running in the special primary election today to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., who pled guilty last week to misusing campaign funds.
“The 2nd congressional district has been plagued for a long time with ethical problems, with corruption, and we have a chance to really close that chapter and start fresh,” Halvorson said just after casting her ballot.
The Chicagoland area could see up to six inches of snow today, which may have a major impact on voter turnout.
But at 9 a.m., about 90 people had voted in two of Crete Township’s precincts, and that’s more than Halvorson and other election workers at the community center anticipated.
“I was expecting at this point if I saw five people, I was going to be lucky,” said David Perry, who braved the cold to hand out campaign literature in support of Halvorson outside of the center.
Perry, who grew up in Steger but now lives on the North Side of Chicago, said he’s completely against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which allowed individuals and corporations to donate unlimited funds to political action committees.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's superPAC Independence USA has spent more than $2 million on the 2nd district race, including TV ads and mailers that call out Halvorson for her record on gun control.
And that doesn’t sit well with Perry and other Halvorson supporters.
“You can’t just assume that any really rich person should have more of a say in the outcome of an election than somebody else, and that’s what I fear,” he said. “My fear is that we’re going to be allowing people to buy these elections.”
Halvorson also blasted Bloomberg’s investment in the race.
“It’s very difficult not to talk about the impact that $3 million has on an election, but we need to send a message loud and clear that we can’t allow $3 million to come in and be spent on buying an election,” Halvorson said.
“Where’s he going to spend his $3 million next? He’s going to try to buy seats all over this country, and we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to send a message today.”
Pat DeFiore of South Chicago Heights enjoyed a cup of coffee with a few friends at the senior center just before Halvorson came to vote. He said Bloomberg’s influence in the race is “uncalled for” and “outrageous.”
“The guy’s a multi-billionaire,” he said. “If he wants to help people, then why don’t you help the poor people instead of giving $2 million worth of ads that don’t make sense?”
DeFiore’s friend, Don Whichman of Steger, chimed in about the TV ads, “They used the worst pictures they could get for Debbie.”
Halvorson served in Congress as 11th District Representative from 2009 to 2011 before she lost to Republican Adam Kinzinger.
She also lost against Jackson Jr. in the 2nd congressional district’s Democratic primary race last year.
Halvorson said she has the right experience needed to fill Jackson Jr.’s seat.
“I already have relationships with people on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “We’ve got to get back to work creating jobs and doing things with the whole culture of violence, and that’s what I can do. I’ve got the proven record.”
Steger resident and administrative assistant Pat Smith said creating jobs is a No. 1 issue in the district.
“Especially down here, it’s depressed,” Smith said after she voted. “We’ve lost a lot of manufacturing down here, and the people down here are great, but we don’t have enough jobs to do or enough money to pay for it, because I’m still working at 80 percent of what I made 10 years ago.”
Ivan Lundin, another voter sitting with DeFiore and Whichman, expressed his disappointment with former congressman Jackson Jr.
“He should have known better,” Lundin said. “He was a rising star, and he ruined his whole life, plus his family. He should have realized what he was doing, and his wife went along with him…I feel sorry, not for him, but for his kids.”
Halvorson stressed how important each vote is today.
“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,” she said.
Here's more from Halvorson on this:
The general election for the 2nd district race is April 9.