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State Sen. Donne Trotter dropping out of congressional race

State Sen. Donne Trotter speaks before Democratic committeemen slate candidate for 2nd Congressional District electiSouth Suburban College South HollIll. Saturday

State Sen. Donne Trotter speaks before Democratic committeemen slate a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District election at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., on Saturday, December 15, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 30, 2013 6:08AM



The field is shifting in the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacant U.S. House seat, after state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), one of the front-runners in the contest, is bowing out because he didn’t want to “tarnish the election.”

Trotter, who is facing felony charges for a weapons arrest and has faced scrutiny involving the administration of a state grant, is expected to formally announce Saturday that he will not pursue the 2nd Congressional District seat.

“Yes, he’s out,” said Bob Storman, spokesman for Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, who had previously pledged his support to Trotter. “He said he is stepping aside and he will make it official tomorrow with a news conference.”

Trotter has pleaded not guilty to knowingly attempting to bring a weapon onto an airplane.

“He doesn’t want to tarnish the election and because he feels it would be unfair to the voters to be with this cloud hanging over his head, with all these issues,” Storman said.

It is a district wrought with troubled representation; the last three elected representatives resigned in scandal.

Sources who Trotter contacted over the last couple of days said Trotter cited among the reasons for his bowing out a recent Sun-Times story detailing a state grant that was under federal scrutiny. The Sun-Times reported last week that Trotter tried to thwart state efforts to recoup a $1.25 million grant to a now-indicted ex-south suburban police chief. Trotter told others he thought hard-hitting scrutiny would continue if he stayed in the race.

“He didn’t want to put his family through it,” one of the sources said.

Other candidates in the race are jockeying behind the scenes, trying to win over Thornton Township’s backing – and the political muscle that comes with it.

That includes Ald. Anthony Beale, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, former state Rep. Robin Kelly, and a slew of others – including Mel Reynolds, who once resigned from the very same seat in disgrace.

Trotter did not return calls. But the sources said Trotter has arranged a conference call with backers for Saturday morning to explain why he will not be a candidate in the special election to succeed Jackson. The primary is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Jackson’s resignation amid a federal investigation into his campaign finances has triggered what could be a wide-open contest in a district that stretches from Chicago’s southern lakefront, through the south suburbs of Cook County and into parts of Kankakee and Will Counties.

Trotter had appeared to be among the front-runners in the 2nd Illinois Congressional District primary fight before he was arrested Dec. 5 for allegedly trying to bring a gun onto a flight at O’Hare Airport.

But his candidacy suffered another blow when the party’s slate-making panel met on Dec. 15 and did not issue an endorsement in the race. Trotter was among 16 candidates who sought their support at a day-long session in South Holland. The veteran Springfield lawmaker told reporters at the time that he could not discuss the gun case but he said he and party leaders thought it should not be an issue in the campaign.

Storman said discussions were ongoing about whom Zuccarelli would put his support behind. Zuccarelli and his powerful committee organization had endorsed Trotter. In the crowded field, the township’s support could mean needed money and foot soldiers behind just one candidate. Storman said party leaders also were working to thin out the cadre of candidates now in the contest by encouraging candidates who didn’t have an organization to drop out rather than splinter the vote.



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