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After Jackson Victory, Halvorson Supporters Still Upset About Airport

As Debbie Halvorson walked into the Fifth Quarter Restaurant in Homewood to greet supporters after her loss in Tuesday’s primary to incumbent congressman, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., she said lightheartedly that she wanted a “nice, large beer.”

“This wasn’t the ending we anticipated,” said Halvorson, as she thanked her supporters, staff and family for their assistance.

Illinois 2nd Congressional District

Halvorson lost by a large margin, 28 percent to Jackson’s 71 percent.

Jackson and his supporters, meanwhile, gathered at the historic Parkway Ballroom in Chicago to celebrate. In his victory speech, Jackson said he wanted to have what he called a “people’s groundbreaking” for the third airport he supports building in the newly remapped 2nd district, much to the dismay of some constituents.

“Gov. Quinn, build this airport now,” said Jackson, drawing applause from supporters. He went on to invite Quinn to the ceremonial Apr. 21 groundbreaking: “I hope you will join with ministers and activists and the mayors and communities’ leaders looking to create jobs in the footprint of this airport.”

Since redistricting after the 2010 census, the 2nd district still encompasses neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and East side, but now swoops down along the state’s eastern border south through Will and Kankakee counties to University Park and eastward to Matteson– the area where Jackson would like to see the third airport built.

“A real Democrat is someone who keeps fighting for a new third airport right here on the South Side, no matter how many times people in Springfield say no,” said Jackson during his victory speech.

Despite low polling numbers before the election, Halvorson supporters in the state’s 2nd congressional district hoped that the former congresswoman might still pull out a win due to support from Will and Kankakee county voters new to the 2nd district.

Halvorson, a former congressional representative and Illinois senator, was the first person to challenge Jackson in a primary race since 1995.

She seemed like a popular choice among voters new to the second district because she opposed building a third airport, said Judy Ogalla, vice-president of the anti-third airport group, Shut This Airport Nightmare Down.

“Jesse Jackson Jr. has been a dirty word here for years, since the whole airport thing started,” said Ogalla.

Jackson’s airport groundbreaking on Apr. 21 would be purely symbolic, since he must still officially lease the land and get permission from Gov. Quinn, but his stance on the airport has frustrated some Will County residents.

“It’s like Will County has lost a representative,” said Will County Board Member Cory Singer (R-1st). “Because who will represent Will County will come from Chicago.”

“It’s as dirty of Illinois politics as you’re going to get,” he said.

In a 22 to 1 vote last Thursday, the Will County Board decided overwhelmingly to support a resolution that asks Gov. Pat Quinn to remove Jackson Jr. from discussions about the airport, citing conflicts of interest due to Jackson Jr.’s involvement with the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission group.

“Both the Illinois Attorney General and the Illinois Department of Transportation say that violates procurement laws,” said Singer.

Other scandals have followed Jackson during his campaign. He is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for his connection to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich when the governor tried to sell President Obama’s vacant senate seat.

But Jackson seemed undeterred after his win Tuesday night.

“Jesse Jr. is not airport obsessed. But I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that there is no public works project quite like an airport. With an airport comes a Hyatt, and a Hilton and a Fairmont and a UPS and a Federal Express. For once in my lifetime, I want to be able to catch a cab on the south side of Chicago,” Jackson said in his victory speech.

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