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Candidates making final push for Jackson’s congressional seat

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(AP file photo)
Former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr leaves federal court Wednesday in Washington after he entered a guilty plea to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.

CHICAGO – The candidates vying to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. spent the weekend trying to mobilize their base as they head toward Tuesday’s special primary election.

Fourteen Democrats and four Republicans are looking to face off for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Because the district – which stretches from Chicago’s South Side to parts of Will and Kankakee counties – is heavily Democratic, it’s likely the candidate who wins the Democratic primary also will take the April 9 general election.

Three Democrats are considered front-runners: Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and former state Rep. Robin Kelly.

Halvorson, of south suburban Crete, spent much of Sunday in Kankakee and Will counties – two more Republican areas she won in her failed attempt to unseat Jackson in the 2012 Democratic primary.

Sean Howard, a spokesman for Halvorson, said the campaign “feels good” about turnout there in early voting. An unusually high number of voters are pulling Democratic primary ballots – a sign, Howard believes, that more conservative voters are bypassing the Republican primary to vote for Halvorson.

“We know where our base is, and we’re encouraged by that,” Howard said.

Beale, meanwhile, was concentrating on getting out the vote in Chicago, spokeswoman Delmarie Cobb said.

She said the highest turnout in the part of the district that’s in city has been in Beale’s ward and a nearby ward where Jackson’s wife, Sandi Jackson, served as alderman until she resigned in January. In the 2012 primary, more ballots were cast in those two wards than in the portions of the district that are in Will and Kankakee counties.

“If they voted, we’re hoping certainly that they voted for [Beale],” Cobb said.

Kelly’s campaign spokesman, Jonathan Blair, said she was splitting her time Sunday between the south suburbs and the city. He said Kelly, of south suburban Matteson, has widespread support and isn’t relying more on any one area than another.

“There’s no place in the district where we don’t have a presence,” Blair said.

Jackson resigned his seat in November following a months-long leave of absence. He cited his ongoing treatment for bipolar disorder and said he was the target of a federal investigation.

Earlier this month he pleaded guilty in federal court to spending about $750,000 of campaign funds on personal items. Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the couple’s income.

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