State Sen. Jacqueline Collins launches run for Rep. Bobby Rush seat: backed by pastor Michael Pfleger

Collins is one of 17 Democrats registered with the FEC for the 1st Congressional District seat Rush will be vacating after 15 terms.

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State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, kicks off her campaign for Congress on Friday.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, kicks off her campaign for Congress on Friday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, is jumping into the crowded Democratic primary to replace Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., announcing her bid Friday with a powerhouse group of backers, including Rev. Michael Pfleger.

Collins, a state senator since 2003, is one of 17 Democrats registered with the Federal Election Commission for the 1st Congressional District seat Rush will be vacating next year after 15 terms. The window to file petitions to run in the June Illinois primary opens on Monday and closes on March 14.

In the past weeks, Collins, an assistant majority leader, had been weighing running for another Senate term or making a bid for Congress.

She told the Sun-Times she decided on the House race because, “I feel there is only so much you can do on the state level, and for the issues that I have been campaigning, working, advocating for over the last 20 years — whether it was the proliferation of guns in our community, as well as how do we close the wealth gap between Black, Brown and white communities, those are issues I have to take on to the federal level.

“And I have assessed the race and the field of candidates, and I believe I am the best qualified because I have a record as an advocate and as an accomplished and effective legislator.”

Collins has been connected to Pfleger — one of the most popular priests on the South Side — for some 30 years, with his St. Sabina church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood where she lives.

The co-chairs of the Collins campaign are state Sen. Robert Peters, the Senate Black Caucus Chair, and state Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr., both from Chicago.

The 1st Congressional District is one of the most historic in the nation, electing Black members to Congress since 1929.

The state senate districts of Collins, Peters and Sims all take in portions of the 1st Congressional District, with much of the voting population of the sprawling district in parts of the South Side and southern suburbs.

Collins is also kicking off her campaign with support from Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. Former Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, is her finance chair with former state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, also part of her fundraising team.

Her campaign advisers also include, among others, senior strategist Ron Holmes, an Illinois government and politics veteran, and pollster Celinda Lake, who has a long history of surveying in Illinois.

With Pfleger at her side, Collins will launch her campaign at the Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers, 3850 S. Wabash Ave., where she will pick up the union’s endorsement.

Her competition is stiff.

This the first time the seat is open since Rush was sworn-into office on Jan. 3, 1993, and there is enormous pent-up demand.

Collins starts off in the top tier in a field with many strong contenders because of her endorsements and resume. Collins said she is launching with about $50,000 in pledges so far.

Others in the top tier have major backers or campaign cash.

Rev. Jesse Jackson is campaigning for his son, Jonathan.

Rush, who is also a minister, is endorsing Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) is supported by former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill. She also benefits from having a head start. She’s been running for two months already, switching from a secretary of state bid to Congress on Jan. 5.

Jonathan Swain — until recently the CEO of a nonprofit helping Black youths succeed in college, the owner of a Hyde Park liquor and wine store and a City Hall veteran said he already raised a $200,000.

Collins was born on Dec. 10, 1949, in McComb, Miss. She moved to Chicago as a three-year old. She graduated from St. Carthage grammar school. After attending Aquinas Dominican, she finished at Hyde Park High School.

Collins focused on journalism at Northwestern University, never completing her degree as she started on a course of political activism.

She went on to get three master’s degrees through the years: in human services administration from the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership and two from Harvard, in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government and in theological studies from its Divinity School. She also has a law degree from Loyola University.

That many people are running means the winner need only a plurality of votes to be the nominee. The district is so Democratic that the June winner is virtually certain to clinch the seat in November.

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