When it comes to Black politics, the changing of the guard can feel like a betrayal
The 1st Congressional District primary to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois had 17 challengers, while one strong opponent was trying to upend the legendary U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis.
It takes a lot of guts to go up against a legendary figure like Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill.
But Kina Collins, an anti-gun activist, didn't shy away from the challenge of trying to unseat a political figure who has reached legendary status.
In doing so, Collins tested the winds of change — the progressive movement — blowing through the Black community. While Collins might not have been taken seriously two years ago, this time around her political future seemed possible and not just wishful thinking.
With 94% of precincts reporting, Davis had 52.1% of the vote, to nearly 45.5% for Collins. Denarvis Mendenhall had 2.4%.
Frankly, had U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., chosen not to retire, there likely would have been only a couple of candidates willing to go up against him.
But with an open path to Congress, 17 people lined up to fill Rush’s 1st Congressional District seat.
The challengers were not wannabes, either. They included Jonathan Jackson, the son of civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), a former city planner who won her Chicago City Council seat from Dorothy Tillman; state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, who has been on the front lines of the fight to end the gun crisis; and Jahmal Cole, founder of the anti-violence nonprofit group My Block, My Hood, My City.
Jackson, considered an early front-runner for the seat, claimed victory about 9 p.m. at his watch party at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center.
At 10:15 p.m., with about 94% of precincts reporting, Jackson had 28%, with Dowell next at 19.2%. Rush’s endorsed candidate, Karin Norington-Reaves, was in third place, with 14.1%.
Several years ago, I visited Davis at his West Side office. I asked him who he was grooming to take his place when he left office. The district was like his baby and the thought of leaving Congress definitely wasn’t on his mind.
But there’s more concern now about the generation gap. A younger generation is eager to take up a mantle if the older generation would only pass it on.
Kim Dulaney, Ph.D., the vice president of education and programs at the newly rebranded museum, called Jackson “fair and balanced.”
“Jonathan is a smart guy. Years ago my then-husband was a political scientist and we were trying to get people to run for mayor. Jonathan said naw. I appreciate that he said he needed more time to understand the full [scope] of the office. I respect that he is not an opportunist. I respect that he chose to come here,” she said.
Still, Jackson caught a lot of flak from the other candidates for accepting donations from a crypto billionaire PAC that spent nearly $1M in Illinois Democratic congressional primaries.
Dulaney acknowledged that with 17 people running for the seat, there was a lot of money spent.
“I don’t know if people even trust politicians anymore because there has been an unwillingness to open the door based on skills, knowledge and qualifications,” Dulaney said.
“It is still based on who gets into the little small circle of black political cliques.”
Still, going up against these civil rights icons can feel like a betrayal.