The Battle for the 26th

Illinois is the rare state that is holding legislative voting at the same time as its presidential primary. (It was always an early-primary state). On ...
by | January 29, 2008
 

Jefferies_2 Illinois is the rare state that is holding legislative voting at the same time as its presidential primary. (It was always an early-primary state). On Feb. 5, there will be many contentious such races -- but not, according to Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green, a general throw the bums out attitude in response to last year's disastrous performance in Springfield (2nd item).

"There may be a few incumbents who bite the dust, especially on the Democratic side, but it will not be a tidal wave of reaction," Green says. Instead, he cites a number of individual races where Illinois power players are fighting proxy battles.

A case in point is the 26th House district, where freshman incumbent Elga Jefferies (pictured above) looks particularly vulnerable. Her big blunder came last April, when she voted against a gun control bill that she had cosponsored. It narrowly lost. Jeffries says her vote was "mistaken" -- her poor excuse is that she was distracted by a phone call she took during the vote -- and pledges to vote for it the next time she gets a chance.

The battle, then, is really between two of her challengers, Kenny Johnson Jr. -- an ally of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. -- and Will Burns, a former aide to Barack Obama and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones. The race has featured countless mailers, endless phone banking and, for those really paying attention, the kind of low-blow full-body politics that makes Chicagoans proud of where they live.

"The internal politics of Illinois is really churning," Green says. "Think of pre-unified Italy."

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