March 19 set for election to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. — for now
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Springfield bureau chief firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov. Pat Quinn's order setting election date
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn has set March 19 as the date for a special election to fill the South Side and south-suburban congressional seat vacated last week by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
But that date is not set in stone because the governor intends to go to state lawmakers for legislation that would allow the general election for the 2nd Congressional District to coincide with existing municipal elections April 9, a top Quinn aide said.
The governor has set Feb. 26 as the date of a primary.
“This special election will be carried out in a manner that is fair to the electorate and as economical as possible for taxpayers,” Quinn said in a prepared statement. “By holding the special primary and general elections on the same days as existing contests, we can save significant taxpayer dollars and ensure the people of the 2nd District can make their voices heard.”
Cook County Clerk David Orr estimated last week that it would cost the suburban counties more than $1 million to hold two separate elections. Orr said he and his counterparts in Chicago, and Will and Kankakee counties — the four areas included in Jackson’s former 2nd Congressional District seat — plan to ask a judge to allow the special election held April 9, along with a primary on Feb. 26.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor’s staff has reached out to the legislative leaders to draft the necessary legislation to allow April 9 as a general election date.
State law required the governor to set a special election date since Jackson’s resignation took place more than six months before the next election, which won’t occur before 2014.
The same law dictated that Quinn had to establish the special election date within five days of Jackson’s departure and that the special election occur within 115 days of the point when the governor files special-election paperwork with the secretary of state.
Since the April 9 municipal general election falls outside that 115-day window, the state Legislature would have to step in grant authority to move the special election date past March 19. Assuming that happens, a federal judge would have to sign off on the change.
The governor’s approach drew backing from Orr.
“I believe it is in the public interest to synchronize the election dates with those already set to minimize costs, boost voter turnout and reduce voter confusion,” Orr said in a prepared statement. “I support changing the statute to allow for an April 9 general election.”
Jackson resigned from Congress last Wednesday, citing a federal investigation into alleged misspending of campaign funds and mental health issues that landed him at the Mayo Clinic.
Illinois is no stranger to special elections, the last one being in 2010 when Republican Mark Kirk defeated Democrat Alexi Giannoulias to fill out the remainder of Roland Burris’ unexpired Senate term.
Earlier, Quinn’s predecessor, imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, set special elections to fill congressional seats vacated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he left Congress to become President Obama’s chief of staff and by former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) when he gave up his seat in 2007.
Jackson himself was first elected in a special election in 1995 to replace Mel Reynolds, who was convicted of sexual misconduct, child pornography and obstruction of justice relating to an affair he had with a campaign volunteer who was a minor.
Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick