Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday passed over former staffer Robin Kelly to endorse state Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the 2nd Congressional District special election.
"I've thought long and hard and, frankly, struggled with this decision because Robin Kelly is a former employee of mine and a friend," Preckwinkle said at the start of her comments in the Palmer House Hilton's Honore Ballroom.
Preckwinkle noted that there are 17 Democrats on the ballot for the Feb. 26 special primary election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.
"I'm backing Toi because at age 39 I know that the voters of the south side and the Southland will be well represented by a leader who puts them first, who puts service first and will get things done for many years to come," she said.
When the candidates last announced their fundraising figures, Kelly had collected $200,209 to Hutchinson’s $130,000. But as a sitting state senator, Hutchinson, of Olympia Field, has a geographic base. Kelly represented the south suburbs for two terms in the state legislature.
Preckwinkle is a pragmatic politician who is guided more by sentiment than loyalty. A poll conducted by Hutchinson’s campaign this month showed her trailing former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, 16 percent to 12 percent. Kelly had 8 percent.
Regarding Halvorson, Preckwinkle noted that while she may have the name recognition, she's too conservative to lead Illinois' 2nd Congressional District.
"In just one term, Halvorson managed to vote against President Obama's agenda on 88 separate occasions," said Preckwinkle. "Debbie Halvorson voted against tough reforms on Wall Street and against extending unemployment benefits. And she even sided with the Republicans to give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest one percent of the population."
Preckwinkle’s endorsement may be the first sign that Cook County’s black leadership is closing ranks around a single candidate in order to stop Halvorson, who Sunday announced she opposes President Obama’s proposed ban on assault weapons.
A Kelly consultant based in Connecticut brushed off the endorsement.
"Getting an A rating from the NRA might get you President Preckwinkle's endorsement, but it won't fly with the voters in the district," said Mark Bergman. "Robin is the one candidate ready to stand with President Obama to bring common sense gun control for families throughout Chicago and the Southland."