Debbie Halvorson is a white Democrat, a staunch supporter of The National Rifle Association, and an ex-congresswoman who desperately wants to represent the majority-black district vacated by former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
And she could win.
Some black Democrats initially considered Halvorson a longshot candidate, but in politics anything is possible and now folks are wondering if Jackson’s congressional district – which is 54 percent black – will see its first white representative in many years. Some polls show Halverson leading the pack by 16 points.
Jackson, who is under a federal investigation, stepped down last month citing health reasons and a special election has been scheduled for Feb. 26 so voters can elect his replacement. There are 16 other candidates running for Jackson’s seat, all African Americans, but some political observers say the black vote could spilt, which would leave an opening for Halvorson.
Next month’s special election comes as Chicago’s homicide rate hit 500 last year for the first time since 2008. The crime wave in the Windy City is spiraling out of control and some law enforcers claim that Americans have a greater chance of being killed in Chicago than U.S. troops do in Afghanistan.
Each of these Chicago homicides was the result of gun violence.
And it’s getting worse.
Chicago authorities say seven people were killed and six wounded in gun violence in one day just last weekend. Among those killed was a 34-year-old man whose mother had already lost her three other children to shootings in Chicago. Police say Ronnie Chambers, who was his mother’s youngest child, was shot in the head while sitting in a car.
After Shirley Chambers lost her third child to gun violence in 2000, she said she worried about her surviving son, Ronnie.
“I only have one child left,” Chambers told the Chicago Tribune at the time, “and I’m afraid that (the killing) won’t stop until he’s gone too.”
On Monday, President Barack Obama told a group of law enforcement officials that gun control is one of his administration’s top priorities in an effort to save lives and keep young people safe.
“It means passing serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips that aren’t necessary for hunters and sportsmen and those responsible gun owners who are out there,” Obama said at the White House. “It means that we are serious about universal background checks. It means that we take seriously issues mental health and school safety.”
Obama said that Americans “also recognize that it’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it’s also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day.”
Meanwhile in Chicago, Halverson, a self-proclaimed conservative Democrat, has received support from the NRA in both of her previous races for Congress. So can an NRA-sanctioned candidate who is anti-gun control be a genuine champion for black residents who are deeply concerned about the skyrocketing black-on-black homicide rate in Chicago?
Many black Democrats say Halverson is far too conservative to support gun control legislation – a position backed by most of the black residents in the district that Halverson wants to represent.
“The NRA gives Debbie Halvorson an ‘A’ rating,” Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and gun control activist in Chicago, told POLITICO. “That tells me she should not be the representative from the 2nd District. If she gets an ‘A’ rating from the NRA, she gets an ‘F’ from me.”
It’s hard to imagine Halvorson representing such a liberal district with such a decidedly conservative ideology. Halvorson admits that she voted with congressional Republicans 88 times between 2009 and 2011.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck – it’s a duck.