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Jackson and Halvorson release competing polls in congressional race

Debbie HalvorsCrete challenging Rep. Jesse JacksJr. Democratic primary. File. stands outside Bloom Township High School Chicago Heights her alma. |

Debbie Halvorson, of Crete, challenging Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in the Democratic primary. File. stands outside Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights, her alma. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 19, 2012 8:14AM

Both sides in the hotly contested Democratic primary election match-up between Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former Rep. Debbie Halvorson released recent poll results to the Sun-Times Tuesday — and each portrayed their poll as good news for their side.

Both polls find Jackson 13 or 14 points ahead of Halvorson.

Halvorson said that with the incumbent polling so low, she sees a “path to victory” for herself, especially with so many voters in the district telling her they don’t like Jackson: “I don’t barely have time to get my name out and they say, ‘Oh, you’ve got my vote,’” Halvorson said.

But Jackson’s pollster says that after all the controversies he has been through in the last two years, to still have 61 percent of voters saying they hold a “favorable” opinion of Jackson, “I see a superhighway to victory.”

“Honestly, given what the congressman has been through, how high the ‘favorables’ were, 59 percent say he cares about people like them, 70 percent say he’s a fighter,” said Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners.

Halvorson released her numbers first, noting she had narrowed the gap between her and Jackson from 17 points in an independent poll taken two months ago to 13 points in the new poll. Of the 400 voters surveyed in the new poll, 48 percent initially chose Jackson, compared to 35 percent for Halvorson.

Almost all the 2nd Congressional District residents reached by Halvorson’s pollster — 96 percent — recognized Jackson’s name. Only about half — 56 percent — recognized Halvorson’s name.

Halvorson reads that to mean Jackson has plenty of constituents who know him and don’t like him, and she has a chance to win them over, even though they don’t know her now.

When the 400 voters surveyed were read mostly positive statements about both Democratic candidates, Halvorson led Jackson by five percentage points.

A few hours later, Lake discussed her poll results with the Sun-Times.

In her poll, Jackson won the initial ballot 44 percent to 30 percent.

Then they read the 496 voters positive messages about both candidates. Jackson still led Halvorson, Lake said.

Then they read negative statements about both candidates. They mentioned that the House Ethics committee opened an investigation of whether Jackson improperly used congressional staff to campaign for him to be appointed to the U.S. Senate.

After all that, Jackson still led Halvorson, Lake said.

Lake said that while both the statements Halvorson’s pollster read to voters were positive, the Halvorson statement had her working with Obama:

“Debbie Halvorson is a former Democratic congresswoman from Crete. Before serving in Congress, Halvorson raised four children as a single mother, so she knows how hard it is for families to make ends meet. In Congress, Debbie stood with President Obama to help working families afford healthcare and get our economy moving even while others abandoned the president for political reasons. She says Jesse Jackson. Jr. is more interested in looking out for himself and his own political career than in fighting for middle class families.

Lake said Halvorson may have gained points in her poll from the implied association with Obama. But Lake said Jackson has had more time to work with Obama in Washington.

The newly redrawn district stretches from Chicago’s South Side, where Jackson lives, out to Kankakee and the area around Peotone where Jackson wants to build an airport. Halvorson, who lives in Crete, has represented much of the suburban part of the district in Congress and in the state Senate.

The “balanced” statement Halvorson’s pollster, Anzalone-Liszt Research read about Jackson went like this:

“Jesse Jackson Jr. is a Democratic congressman from the South Side of Chicago. Jackson says he has fought for better jobs. He has fought for projects like building a third Chicago-area airport which could break ground as early as next summer and will create new job opportunities in the Southland. Jackson says Debbie Halvorson is really a pro-gun Republican while he was a national co-chairman of President Obama’s campaign and has brought over $800 million to the district for better jobs, roads, healthcare, and education.”

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