Low turnout expected for 2nd Congressional District special election

February 22, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The 2nd Congressional District includes parts of Chicago's South Side and south suburbs.

Merle Tholen drove ten miles to the Kankakee County Courthouse to vote early in the 2nd Congressional Democratic Primary.

"I'm a hunter," Tholen said. He's outraged by the gun control campaign ads sponsored by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Political Action Committee.

"He needs to keep his nose out of Illinois, plain and simple," Tholen said. "[I've] got shotguns that are semi-automatic and they're going after them so I say, 'Leave us alone'."

In reliably Republican Kankakee County, early voters have taken three times as many Democratic ballots. But Clerk Bruce Clark suggests by the time polls close next Tuesday there won't be enough votes in either primary to make a difference.

"Typically, if the trends continue like this, we'll have a little over a 10-percent turnout," Kankakee County Clerk Bruce Clark said.

Early voting is slow in Chicago and Cook County, too, where the vast majority of 2nd district registered Democrats live.

During the region's last special primary -- the 2009 contest to replace Rahm Emanuel in the 5th Congressional District -- underdog Mike Quigley won with only 12,000 votes in an election for which only 17-percent turned out.

This year, an early voting bright spot is the Far South Side's 9th Ward where Alderman Anthony Beale is a favorite.

"I haven't answered any phone calls that say go out and vote. This is something I choose to do," Aretha Lucas said.

"This election is going to be won on Election Day. It's not going to be won early voting. It's not going to be won prior to this coming Tuesday," Beale said.

In its televised effort to turnout voters for Robin Kelly, the Bloomberg PAC released another commercial Friday.

But Halvorson says Bloomberg's $2 million barrage is backfiring. She welcomes Republican crossovers throughout the district, who could make a difference in a low turnout Democratic Primary.

"This is a 75-80% Democrat district and if they want to have a voice they've got to participate in the Democrat primary," Halvorson said.

Candidates using turnout projections estimate they'll need as few as 12,000 to 15,000 votes to win the Democratic Primary if the turnout in the neighborhood of 50,000. There are more than 250,000 registered voters in the second congressional district.

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