Jonathan Jackson wins 1st District congressional race, Danny Davis ahead in 7th

The son of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. beat 16 other Democrats, while longtime congressman Davis was ahead of a progressive rival.

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Jonathan Jackson, joined by his family and campaign staff, speaks to supporters after winning the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary, at the auditorium of the DuSable Museum, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson won Tuesday’s primary election for the congressional seat that had been held for 30 years by former Black Panther Bobby Rush, while longtime U.S. Rep. Danny Davis appeared to have fended off a progressive challenger to secure a 14th term in Congress.

First-time candidate Jonathan Jackson, buoyed by name recognition from his famous father and more than $1 million in outside spending by groups affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry, had been leading in most polls since he announced his candidacy to replace Rush in February.

Seventeen candidates had sought to replace Rush in the primary, the winner of which is all but assured of winning the seat in the November general election.

The mood was jubilant at the DuSable Museum of African American History as Jonathan Jackson, joined by his father and a full band, took the stage to announce victory around 9 p.m.

Rev. Jackson sat teary-eyed by his son as Jonathan Jackson addressed the crowd. Jonathan Jackson handed flowers to his wife, sisters and daughters and thanked his 80-year-old father.

“No matter how high I go, I’ll always look up to you,” he said.

“We have some challenges that are ahead of us, and I want to thank you for bestowing upon me this high and great honor to trust me with your vote, to represent you, in Washington D.C.,” Jackson said. “The South Side has been left behind, and I want you to know the South Side of Chicago matters.”

With 94% of precincts reporting, Jackson led the field with 28% of ballots cast, trailed by Ald. Pat Dowell with 19 % and Rush’s endorsed pick for the seat, Karin Norington-Reaves, with 14%.

Army veteran Carlson led the four-way GOP race with 41% of the vote, trailed by gun shop owner Jeffrey Regnier’s 39%.

November will mark the first time Rush’s name won’t appear on the congressional general election ballot to represent the historic 1st District for the first time since 1992.

But as midnight approached on election day, Davis’ dynasty in the 7th District appeared to have survived a well-financed campaign by gun violence activist Kina Collins, who was challenging the longtime congressman for a second time. With 95% of precincts reporting, Davis led Collins 52% to 46%. Collins’ campaign said late Tuesday that the candidate would not yet concede.

In the 1st District, Jonathan Jackson touted the experience he gained working at the side of his civil rights icon father, seldom mentioning his brother, disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who represented the adjacent 2nd District from 1995 to 2012, when he resigned amid a scandal over misuse of campaign funds that sent him in federal prison.

Jonathan Jackson, who campaigned for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid, was endorsed by the Vermont senator and local progressives, including 4th District U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Jackson trailed in fundraising as of the last finance report and was battered by opponents for his failure to file financial disclosure reports until just days before the election. Then, in the final weeks of the campaign, Jackson got a big boost from more than $500,000 in ad spending by a political action committee backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Samuel Bankman-Fried, whose Bahamas-based cryptocurrency exchange FTX has a headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop.

All told, Jackson benefited from outside expenditures of more than $1 million from three PACs with ties to the cryptocurrency industry. Bankman-Fried donated $23 million of the $24 million raised by Protect Our Future PAC.

Flanked by supporters, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis speaks at an election night party Tuesday night at the James E. Worsham Bldg. at 3850 S. Wabash Ave. on the South Side.

Flanked by supporters, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis speaks at an election night party Tuesday night at the James E. Worsham Bldg. at 3850 S. Wabash Ave. on the South Side.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Davis dynasty survives challenge

The primary battle between Davis and Collins in the 7th District got national press attention as a barometer of the ongoing struggle between moderate Democrats and a new generation of more progressive newcomers.

“It’s been a hard fight, but I can also tell you that the victory is sweet,” Davis said from the podium at the National Association of Letter Carriers hall in Bronzeville. “And I can tell you why it is so sweet — it’s because grassroots people are the ones who did it.”

Collins, a community activist, was backed by nearly $400,000 in spending by the progressive Justice Democrats PAC —which recruited U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib to run in 2018.

Collins improved on her 14% showing in 2020, when Davis won 61% of the votes in a four-way race.

While Collins raised about $150,000 more than Davis during the campaign cycle and out-spent the incumbent $530,000 to $136,000, Davis was buoyed late by endorsements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden — as well as a burst of $425,000 in spending from a “dark money” group affiliated with moderate Democratic House leaders.

There was no candidate in the Republican primary for the seat.

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