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Mark Brown: Large field to possibly seek Jackson’s seat

Call it the Battle for the Southland.

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s resignation Wednesday created a wide-open race to succeed him in the 2nd Congressional District, with no obvious favorite.

For historical guidance, look to the 2009 special election to fill Rahm Emanuel’s seat in Congress when Mike Quigley defeated 11 other Democratic candidates with only about 12,000 votes — or just 22 percent.

In other words, it should be a free-for-all, with an advantage to the candidate who starts with high name recognition — or the money to make up for it.

The potential candidates:

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th):

The 14-year City Council veteran has declined to talk publicly but has been the most aggressive in trying to line up support behind the scenes. Beale released a noncommittal statement Wednesday praising Jackson, but he’s expected to jump in quickly. His advantage is that the 9th Ward has the second most voters in the district behind the Jacksons’ home turf in the 7th Ward, which gives him a starting base.

Ald. Will Burns (4th): “I’m interested,” said the first-term alderman, a former state representative who is regarded as an up-and-comer. Burns, still making up his mind, was Barack Obama’s pick to replace him in the state Senate but fell short. A member of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s 4th Ward political organization, Burns is an accomplished fund-raiser, having raised more than $1.2 million during the past 4½ years. He doesn’t live in the district.

Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris: The former NFL and Northwestern linebacker with two Beggar’s Pizza franchises hasn’t even taken office yet but has the ambition and money to keep climbing. “He’s evaluating it,” said campaign aide Curtis Thompson. “He’s taking the holidays to do it.” Thompson said Harris would have the “resources and organization” to make the race.

Sen. Toi Hutchinson: Many believe this personable Olympia Fields legislator would be a formidable candidate, and sources say she’s leaning more toward making the race than when we spoke two weeks ago. She already represents part of the south end of the 2nd District. She issued a statement saying she’ll be exploring a campaign and will “have more to say in the coming days.”

Sen. Donne Trotter: “I’m in,” said this 24-year veteran of the Legislature from the South Side who said his senate district encompasses half of the 2nd District. It would be Trotter’s second run for Congress, having been defeated by Bobby Rush in the 1st District in 2002, after which he was remapped into the 2nd. Trotter thinks his experience should make him a favorite. “I’ve got a lot of tools in my belt,” he said.

Former state Rep. Robin Kelly: “I have been assembling a team and have been preparing to run,” Kelly told me by email. Now a top aide to Preckwinkle, Kelly was chief of staff to state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, then ran unsuccessfully to replace him when he tried for the Senate. She is a former state legislator from Matteson.

Former state Rep. David Miller: “I’ve been looking at it for a while,” said this ex-legislator from Lynwood currently working as the chief of oral health for the Illinois Department of Public Health. Talking like a candidate, Miller said his phone was “blowing up’’ Wednesday with supporters urging him to run. Miller, a practicing dentist, was the Democratic nominee for state comptroller in 2010 but lost to Judy Baar-Topinka.

Jonathan Jackson: You might think that the Jackson name would be a liability right now, but the congressman’s brother might have a chance in a crowded field if he could line up some campaign donors. He’s made no overt moves of which I am aware, but everybody will be talking about him until he takes himself out of the discussion.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson: Although soundly thrashed by Jackson in this year’s Democratic primary, she’s weighing another run. “I’m waiting to see the field,” Halvorson said Wednesday.

Sam Adam Jr.: Talk about your wild cards, this high-profile defense lawyer who was one of the first to publicly declare his interest would make a great candidate and probably could win. But I’m still not sure anybody’s explained to him that you can’t practice law and serve in Congress at the same time. Is he really ready for the pay cut?

Mel Reynolds: Sources told Sneed the convicted former congressman wants to run for his old seat. If that’s true, he’s delusional. Talented but delusional.

Todd Stroger: The former County Board President told our Lisa Donovan that he wants to run, too. Also delusional. Not as talented as Reynolds.

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