After Rush's Retirement, Candidates Work to Stand Out in Crowded Field

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After 30 years in Congress, Rep. Bobby Rush’s decision not to run for re-election in 2022 has sparked a quickly-evolving race to replace him, and his endorsement could potentially play a key role in that quest.

Several candidates had already announced that they were running for the seat even before Rush made his announcement this week, but a new contender jumped into the ring on Wednesday, as Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell announced her candidacy.

“I am feeling good about the reception that I’ve received so far,” she said.

According to the Federal Election Commission, at least seven candidates have already filed papers saying they intend to run for the seat in Illinois’ 1st District. That list includes Chicago teacher Kirby Birgans, activist and Pastor Chris Butler, community activist Jahmal Cole, educator Dee Nix, and attorney Michael Thompson.

Still, others are debating whether to jump into the race.

“I’m seriously considering it,” State Sen. Elgie Sims said.

“Oh, without question (I’m considering it),” State Rep. Marcus Evans said. “The blessing part of this is that we have a lot of qualified people in the community, and I believe that I’m one of them.”

With more than a dozen confirmed and potential candidates currently eyeballing the race, Rush’s endorsement could be key, and Sims said that he would seek the Congressman’s approval if he jumped into the race.

“The legacy of service that Congressman Rush leaves is certainly one we marvel at. I’d love to have (his) support,” he said.

Rep. Bobby Rush will not seek re-election later this year, paving the way for a pitched battle to replace him. NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern, who broke the story yesterday, has more.

Although Rush has remained mum on a possible endorsement, NBC 5 Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern has heard from multiple sources that the most likely candidate to receive that coveted boost doesn’t hold office, and hasn’t officially announced her candidacy.

That potential candidate is Karin Norington-Reaves, the CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. In 2021, her team was instrumental in the city of Chicago’s COVID vaccination efforts, and in previous years she has also worked a the deputy director of the state of Illinois’ Office of Urban Assistance, and as a professor at Loyola.

Endorsements aside, candidates are working to put together financial commitments to their campaigns, and are working to bring enough energy to boost voter turnout ahead of the hotly-contested June primary.

“(The key is) to make sure that you’re really connected to the constituents within the district, and to bring home those resources and those services,” Dowell said.

Both Evans and Sims said that they would focus on being a voice for their communities on the national stage.

“We need a worker. We need somebody who’s going to go to DC and fight,” Evans said.

It is not clear when Rush will announce a potential endorsement in the election, but sources tell Ahern that the announcement could come as soon as this weekend.

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