5. Kelly was blessed with a very weak field in the 2nd CD Democratic Primary special election held today. Although there were fifteen candidates in the Democratic Primary, only three had serious name recognition, organization, a base and sufficient funds to run a credible race: African-American former State Rep. and 2010 Democratic candidate for State Treasurer Robin Kelly (likely to get 50%) had the above items and a message that focused on gun control ; White former Democratic Party State Senator and Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson (likely to get 20%) and Black 9gth Ward Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale (likely to get 10%).
Debbie Halvorson was the early 2nd CD Dem Primary favorite due to her name recognition, pre-existing base (having served many of these voters as a state senator and congresswoman), experience, money and the fact that she was the only white face in a sea of black candidates. However, the IL second congressional district is only 36 % white and the white voters don’t focus enough on race to help Halvorson. Halvorson ran a cautious, prevent defense campaign that focused on no issues and that issue timidness came back to bite her (see, below). Her Pro Gun position hurt her, but her reluctance to demonstrate leadership on other issues hurt her almost as much. Beale is also a non-entity and his campaign manager, Delmarie Cobb, ran a quiet, cautious, risk averse campaign that made sure Beale stayed a non-entity in the minds of voters. Kelly could have won this race by default. Color the Halvorson and Beale campaigns dumb and led by lackluster, bland candidates and unaggressive, risk averse consultants.
4. Black Democratic State Senator Napoleon Harris initially was thought to be one of five front runners in this race. He was just elected State Senator in November, 2012, in large part because of his money and his name recognition as a former Northwestern University and Pro Football player. It turns out Senator Harris knows little about state legislative issues and much less about Congressional issues. Harris has a base as a result of being recently elected to state senator, but the attachment by voters to him is not strong and even by today’s cynical, political standards, Harris' decision to run for Congress before he was sworn in as state senator seemed just a tad too opportunistic and too cynical for the 2nd CD voters. State Senator Harris was way out of his league and got out of the race before he could really embarrass himself and his few supporters. That hasty exit brought the race to four candidates.
3. State Senator Toi Hutchinson was thought to be a savvy, personable African-American female politician with a strong base within the District. However, the attachment by her voters was not strong. More importantly, her high rating by the NRA was out of sync with much of the District. Mayor Bloomberg’s Super Pac initially spent a million, or so, dollars making sure that 2nd CD voters knew about Halvorson’s A rating by the NRA. Then he turned his attention to Hutchnson’s high NRA rating. Over-all, the powers that be in Illinois decided that Toi was not the most savvy, prettiest or most electable black face in the field. ABC-7 political correspondent and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington has said, “Once an office goes black, it never goes back.” Black Leaders in the Democratic Party did not want to see that theory tested. Toi was pushed out of the race in an effort to build up the strongest black candidate in the field, Robin Kelly. Then there were three: Halvorson, Beale and Kelly.
2. Ald.Anthony Beale has been the 9th Ward Chicago Alderman for 14 years and has little to show for it. He says he has been big on gun control. And, that has accomplished what? A gigantic murder rate in Chicago, especially on the west and south sides of Chicago. Beale says he is a job creator, meaning he gets some tax money and hands it out in the form of a few public jobs. He says virtually nothing about education. His campaign person, Delmarie Cobb, has a history of making money from Beale's aldermanic expense fund and she continued that money making history in the 2nd CD campaign, but she had little value added for Ald. Beale in this campaign. In short, Beale is a non-entity who became a non- entity campaign with the help of Delmarie Cobb's company, "The Publicity Works," which didn't work for Beale.
As for Debbie Halvorson, she was on the wrong side of gun control, race, and personality for this District. In short, the question is not so much why she lost but how she ever won a congressional seat. She seemed to stand for nothing and run from everything, when it came to the issues.
1. Robin Kelly is a bright, confident, poised, attractive candidate who was on the right side for the 2nd CD of money, organization, race, willingness to speak out on the issues, gun control and had the support of the powers that be in Illinois. If you want to know why Robin Kelly won, watch 2nd CD Dem Primary winner Kelly here. You may or may not agree with Robin on education, jobs and gun control, but she held up when I challenged her. The woman has style and backbone and voters like that. More importantly, she was the only front runner with the moxie and strength of character to come on Public Affairs and she then won her race. Obama came on Public Affairs six times and he became President. Perhaps there is a lesson here for candidates in future races.
Finally, there is that ultimate voter test for choice of candidates. Would you like to have a cup of coffee with Kelly, Beale or Halvorson? It's a no brainer. Nobody is going to sit down with Halvorson or Beale, when he has the choice to sip some coffee with 56 year old Robin Kelly. It is as simple as that.
There are four candidates in the Republican Primary but it is unlikely that the State GOP will violate its guiding principle: it never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It is doubtful the GOP winner will be a player in the April 9 2nd CD general election.