Jesse Jackson Jr. rode his famous name to a Democratic primary victory Tuesday, becoming the odds-on favorite for the congressional seat Mel Reynolds resigned following his sexual misconduct conviction.
The civil rights leader’s 30-year-old son was successful not only in Chicago’s southern suburbs but also on the home ground of city ward leaders, remnants of the Democratic organization his father fought for years.
“The Machine seems like it’s out of gas,” said the Rev. James Meeks, Jackson’s pastor.
With 93 percent of the precincts reporting, unofficial returns showed Jackson with 26,994 votes, or 48 percent, and state Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones Jr. with 21,680 votes, or 39 percent.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson later declared “It’s our family hour!” and the candidate’s sister, Santita, sang a soulful song at the victory party.
Jones met with subdued supporters at his primary night headquarters and said his totals did not look favorable.
State Sen. Alice Palmer had 5,960 votes, or 11 percent; state Rep. Monique Davis had 1,331 votes, or 2 percent; and businessman John Morrow 243, less than 1 percent.
The 2nd Congressional District on Chicago’s South Side and nearby suburbs is overwhelmingly Democratic, and the primary winner will be a heavy favorite in the Dec. 12 special election.
Republican Thomas J. Somer captured his party’s nomination, grabbing 83 percent of the vote in a fourman field.
Constituents in the 2nd District endured 12 years of Rep. Gus Savage’s chronic absenteeism, anti-Jewish remarks and embarrassing personal incidents before they replaced him in 1992 with Reynolds, a Rhodes scholar who promised to do better. On Sept. 28, Reynolds was sentenced to five years in prison for sexual misconduct with an underage campaign volunteer.
Jackson’s father is a well-known and popular figure in the district, where blacks outnumber whites by more than two-to-one. But Jones, 60, said the man known to his friends as “Junior” was merely riding on his father’s fame.
“He has a major name with no substance - I have substance,” said Jones.
Jackson accused Jones of focusing too much on the city and lacking a suburban perspective. He backed an airport project that is popular among suburban Republicans but is anathema at City Hall.