We all often talk about how crucial it is that our political leaders have some kind of inbuilt empathy system for the ordinary working families whose interests they’re supposed to be serving. The alternative, as we’ve seen, is a kind of self-absorbed Ayn Rand Republicanism or, closer to home, the Blue Dogs and New Dems. That’s why Blue America is so vigilant about congressional races wherever and whenever they happen. And the next congressional race coming up is for the seat Jesse Jackson, Jr. resigned from, IL-02, with a primary on February 26 and a general election April 9. The second district is very Democratic– Obama beat Romney 80.7-18.5% and Jackson, who was hospitalized for the entire campaign, was reelected with 63%– and the winner of the primary next month is all but assured a seat in Congress. Although there are nearly two dozen people running, the two front-runners are progressive state Senator Toi Hutchinson and self described “conservative Democrat” former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. It’s a majority African American district and Halvorson’s hope has been getting as many African-Americans as possible to run to split the vote so she could sneak back into Congress.
Seeking to gauge exactly what kind of empathy we could expect from a Congresswoman Hutchinson, she told us about her grandfather who passed away a few months ago. “He started his career as a door-to-door World Book Encyclopedia salesman. He worked hard, and saved his money so he would have something to leave his children, but he lost almost everything in the financial collapse of 2008. It’s critical that we hold people accountable for our current economic collapse, but I’m grateful that he was able to stay in his home because of his veterans’ benefits and Social Security. I know how important those programs were to our family when my grandfather was passing, and I’ll never support any kind of cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security that are so critical to so many people.”
That’s exactly the kind of Representatives we need in Congress. That kind of core attitude manifests itself across a wide spectrum of issues that Members of Congress have to deal with. Let’s take the gun safety issues roiling the political elites right now. Sen. Hutchinson is on board with Obama’s proposals, of course, but she knows that isn’t the solution to a very real problem. “I am a cosponsor,” she told us this week, “on two bills in Illinois that would outlaw assault weapons and high capacity clips, but that’s not enough. I know that kids on the South Side of Chicago aren’t being shot by AR-15s. We need to have a larger conversation about how our politics and our government are letting down poor communities that suffer every day under the yoke of violence. The source of crime and violence is hopelessness— it is a generation of young people that doesn’t see a future, and view crime and gangs as the only path to supporting themselves. It is a generation of young men that can’t find work or a place to live, and crime becomes their only option.”
Last two times Halvorson ran– first against Republican challenger Adam Kinzinger who beat her 58-42% and then, after redistricting, in a primary against Jackson last year she lost 71-29%, voters telling her they weren’t interested in her kind of corporately-oriented conservative politics. Fellow corporately funded New Dems in DC are pushing her candidacy again this year. Blue America has endorsed Toi Hutchinson and she will be joining us today for a live chat in the comments section (below) at 1pm (CT). If you’d like to help us raise some campaign money for her, please go to the special election page we set up on ActBlue.
Will Halvorson vote with the Democratic leadership on most bills? Sure… but will she fight for progressive values and issues? She never did when she was in Congress before and there’s no reason to think she’s any better now. She has a record; it isn’t very good. Toi has a record too– and it’s a lot better. She worked with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to make their state “the first state in the country to mandate the testing of rape kits within 10 days of submission so that survivors of sexual assault can build their case in court. And while the State of Illinois was shredding the safety net in the name of fiscal discipline, I fought to pass a new tax on strip clubs that directed proceeds to help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet.”