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State Sen. Toi Hutchinson running for Jackson seat — vs. pal, ex-boss

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. File photo. |  Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. File photo. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 5, 2013 6:25AM



Three bright, accomplished women with legislative backgrounds are embarking on a new, complicated relationship.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields; former state Rep. Robin Kelly, of Matteson, and former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, of Crete, emerged from the same political family tree, having crossed paths as they cut their political teeth in the south suburbs.

Now, all three women want Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former seat in the 2nd Congressional District.

Hutchinson announced her candidacy in Chicago Heights on Monday, which means she’s running against Kelly, whom she calls “a dear friend,” as well as her former boss, another friend, Halvorson.

“This is one of those situations where, it’s a family fight,” Hutchinson said Monday. “We’ll put the family back together again once this is all over.”

Hutchinson admits that she put her name in without first telling Halvorson. Hutchinson was appointed to Halvorson’s Illinois Senate seat in 2009 after Halvorson was elected to the U.S. House for a two-year stint.

“No, we didn’t have a conversation about this,” Hutchinson said of her candidacy.

Meanwhile, Kelly on Monday called Hutchinson’s decision to run “a little disappointing.”

“She was one of the people who talked to me about running,” Kelly said. “She has a right. Everyone has a right to run. I’m not mad at her. It was a little disappointing but you know, I’m not like: ‘I’m not your friend anymore.’ We’ve worked together in the past.”

When Hutchinson’s grandfather died recently, she said Kelly and Halvorson attended the funeral. Hutchinson worked as Halvorson’s chief of staff when Halvorson served in Springfield.

It’s clear that Hutchinson, 39, may be sensitive to those who think she is leapfrogging over Kelly, 56, and Halvorson.

“A lot of people would say: ‘Wait your turn,’ ” Hutchinson said of her candidacy. “I believe that if you are doing it for the right reasons, and you put your best foot forward and you campaign hard and you tell your story and you get other people to tell me their stories, everything will be fine. Everything will work out. It’s what you do when you decide to step into the arena. It’s not easy. Sometimes you, you know, it’s not easy.”

Kelly said she thinks she knows why people may tell Hutchinson to “wait her turn.”

“I’m sure people say that to her because she is younger and also, a lot of people feel like she and I would be a really good team. She staying a senator and I going to D.C., we could be the dynamic duo,” Kelly said.

But Hutchinson has bigger plans, indeed. She announced her candidacy at a health-care facility in Chicago Heights with a cadre of supporters around her.

Kelly did the same a day earlier. Halvorson, meanwhile, announced a week earlier.

On Monday, Halvorson said she sees herself as something of a mentor to Hutchinson and Kelly. Halvorson said she urged Kelly to run for state rep and she helped groom Hutchinson to take over her state Senate spot.

“I guess, in my business, you just have to expect anything being thrown at you. People say to me: ‘You hired [Hutchinson], you trained her, she took your spot, is there no loyalty?’ I say: ‘Hey, this is politics,’ ” Halvorson said.



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