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Another chance for female gains

Toi Hutchinson

Toi Hutchinson

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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:11AM



In national politics, 2012 was the Year of the Woman — on steroids. This January, the 113th Congress will kick off with the largest assemblage of women in history.

Ladies, put on your high heels and kick it up a notch in Illinois 2nd Congressional District. It’s time for our deep reservoir of female talent to step in and sweep up the messes the men have left behind.

For more than two decades, the male sex has brought disappointment, shame and scandal to an already struggling district.

Last month U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned under investigation. He’s scouting out a plea deal. His predecessor, Mel Reynolds, quit after being convicted of sexual misconduct, child pornography and obstruction of justice. Reynolds replaced Gus Savage, who had been accused of making improper sexual advances to a Peace Corps volunteer.

All the candidates in this Democratic stronghold will likely agree on the three issues voters care about most: jobs, jobs and jobs.

Women matter. Women run the families, pay the bills and break up the fights. Women are negotiators, not obfuscators. In the 2nd District, they head many of the households struggling with pernicious unemployment, substandard housing and rampant crime.

Women excel in high places and avoid the low lights. You rarely find women politicians in orange jumpsuits. They prefer power suits.

And women voters flock to qualified female candidates. In Illinois, they were a force behind the election of popular female “firsts” such as Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The 2nd Congressional District’s Democratic primary will be a mad scramble. More than a dozen aspirants are looking to get into the Feb. 26 contest.

But if you blow away the hot air, you’ll find plenty of female talent with enough name recognition, fund-raising ability and political savvy to rise above the fray.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, a Mary Kay saleswoman-turned-politician from south suburban Crete, served one term in Congress and 12 years in the Illinois Senate. She lost the Democratic primary to Jackson last March.

Halvorson’s former chief of staff, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, is a respected legislator based in Olympia Fields. She is expected to formally announce her candidacy Monday.

Robin Kelly is a former Illinois state representative and currently Cook County’s chief administrative officer. In 2010, this Preckwinkle ally made an unsuccessful run for Illinois state treasurer.

There’s a “Draft Stephanie Neely” movement brewing. The former vice president at Northern Trust Global Investments is in her second term as Chicago’s city treasurer and brings connections to Chicago’s business community.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mel “sex-with-an-underage-girl” Reynolds may unwittingly help their cause. Last week, he strode before the cameras to announce his “redemptive” run to regain his old seat. The beleaguered 2nd District can’t afford that kind of redemption. Let’s hope female voters will be energized by Reynolds’ grievous insult to injury.

Come this cold February, perhaps a flower will rise from the muck.



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