1st and 2nd district candidate make last push

October 24, 2008 3:41:38 PM PDT
Congressional candidates are launching their final drives to connect with voters. In two congressional districts, challengers are struggling to get the word out about their campaigns.

Illinois' first congressional district covers south portions of Chicago and adjacent suburbs. Lying just to the east is the 2nd congressional district, comprised of southeast Chicago and the suburbs that hug the Indiana border.

Congressmen Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr. represent districts where Democrats dominate the political landscape. But they're still facing spirited, long shot opponents running as Republicans on a platform of change. And they're facing additional obstacles that make these races a big more complicated than the other congressional battles in the city where the Democrats are virtual shoo-ins.

Rush is fighting to overcome cancer while Jackson is fighting for Barack Obama's senate seat if Obama's elected president. But at least after many years, Rush and Jackson have stopped fighting each other.

Rush and Jackson had no idea that a hug at the Democratic convention in August to end a long-simmering feud would be so contagious that some of the other antagonistic Illinois politicians would bury their hatchets with a hug, at least temporarily. But that was then. And this is now - an election season. So Rush and Jackson are battling new opponents in the Republican Party and new challenges in their own lives as they campaign to hold onto their seats in two heavily Democratic congressional districts.

"I don't take days for granted now. Each hour matters. And I have a lot I want to accomplish," Rush said.

Rush is fighting cancer as he runs for a ninth term in the 1st congressional district on the city's South Side against a 29-year-old GOP opponent, Cook County sheriff's deputy and evangelical Christian Antoine Members, who is watching constituents file for federal flood assistance as he accuses Rush of failing to bring enough jobs to the district.

"I'm a new person that has a new vision and new ideas," Members said.

Rush is taking some of the credit for the federal dollars that helped rebuild the Dan Ryan Expressway. But he said he agrees there is more to do. And he says that help is one the way.

"With Barack Obama as president and Bobby Rush as congressman of the 1st congressional district, we're going to have a dynamic duo," Rush said.

Obama's also an issue in the 2nd district, which includes the South Side and south suburbs. Congressman Jackson's represented those people for 13 years. But he is also lobbying for Obama's Senate seat if Obama's elected president. And that's creating an opening for Jackson's Republican opponent, Anthony Williams, who accuses the incumbent of ignoring the present to concentrate on the future.

"The district is eroding. The businesses have moved out of Illinois, out of the 2nd district. I walk in the shoes of the people. Jackson doesn't have - he's out of touch with reality. He just feels he's entitled to be a congressman," Williams said.

"We've been in Congress for 13 years. We've only missed two votes. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have appropriated more than $600 million to very specific projects," Jackson said.

As for the senate seat?

"I wouldn't say no if asked," Jackson said.

Jackson is facing a lot of competition for Obama's Senate seat if there's a vacancy. And the candidates include two of his congressional colleagues from Chicago - Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky. The other Democratic House members from Chicago, Danny Davis, Dan Lipinski and Rahm Emanuel say they're satisfied with their House seats. The choice will be made by Governor Rod Blagojevich if Obama's elected president.


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