A Democratic state senator running for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s old congressional seat suggested Monday that voters should “turn the page” away from the district’s scandal-filled history of representation, even as a rival candidate faces felony gun charges.
Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s comments mark the first public criticism by a 2nd Congressional District contender of state Sen. Donne Trotter, who was arrested last week at O’Hare International Airport after he allegedly tried to carry a handgun and ammunition aboard a Washington-bound aircraft. Trotter told police he had forgotten about the firearm and bullets and that he used them while working security.
“You don’t want to see anything like that happening to a colleague. I believe it was an accident. I really do,” said Hutchinson of Trotter’s arrest.
“But at the same time, we’ve had three congressmen in a row leave with issues with scandals and legal issues and I think people are ready to turn the page,” said Hutchinson, 39, of Olympia Fields.
Trotter, a 62-year-old veteran South Side lawmaker, has said he will continue seeking the congressional seat. He did not respond to messages seeking a reply to Hutchinson’s comments ahead of a Wednesday court hearing.
Hutchinson and Trotter are among a group of candidates who have announced their candidacy for a special Feb. 26 primary election for a congressional seat left vacant by Jackson, who resigned amid federal ethics investigations and a diagnosis of bipolar depression.
In 1995, Jackson was elected to replace former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, who was convicted of several sex-related charges, including having sex with an underage volunteer campaign worker. He was later convicted on federal finance and campaign fraud charges. His sentence was commuted by President Bill Clinton to time served in 2001.
Reynolds, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, succeeded controversial U.S. Rep. Gus Savage, who was condemned by the House Ethics Committee amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving a Peace Corps volunteer while on an official congressional trip to Zaire.
“I am seriously concentrating on the needs of the people in this district and every minute we talk about these other issues, we’re not talking about creating jobs, we’re not talking about protecting Medicare and Social Security, we’re not talking about the issues that matter to folks everyday and their own pocketbooks,” Hutchinson said.
Speaking of the allegations against Trotter, Hutchinson told reporters at a City Hall news conference that she could consider supporting a vastly scaled-down state plan to allow gun owners outside Chicago and suburban Cook County to carry a concealed firearm. Illinois is the only state in the union that does not allow some form of what’s called “concealed carry.”
Meanwhile, the web site DNAinfo Chicago reported that Ald. Sandi Jackson said “never say never” when asked about seeking her husband’s former seat in Congress.
Keiana Barrett, the 7th Ward alderman’s chief of staff, said Jackson has not ruled out a run, but has no immediate plans to do so, has not discussed a possible run with anyone and has not raised money for such an effort.
“Her focus right now is on her family and her job as alderman,” Barrett said. “That’s her focus. It’s not on the Congressional seat.”
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