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Primary challenger sees opportunity in poll on Jesse Jackson Jr. race

Debbie Halvorson mug as of 9/23/08

An independent poll of 600 voters in Rep. Jesse Jackson’s 2nd Congressional District shows him leading challenger Debbie Halvorson – but not by much.

As a matter of fact, the poll shows only 35 percent of voters surveyed said they’d vote to re-elect him.

“Ninety-three percent say they know him, but only 35 percent want to elect him,” Halvorson said. “There is a path to victory to beat him. He’s never had a real race since being in office.”

The 35 percent of voters who said they’d vote for Jackson is nearly double the number — 18 percent — that said they’d vote for Halvorson. But her name recognition is only half Jackson’s: 54 percent she noted.

“I’ve got plenty of time to get my message out there to people who don’t know me,” said Halvorson, who is gathering signatures to run against Jackson in the March 20 Democratic primary election.

Jackson noted that his old district, which has re-elected him nine times, makes up 75 percent of the new district, which has expanded out into Will County and the area around his signature project, the proposed Third Airport near Peotone.

That’s territory Halvorson used to represent in Congress before she was defeated by Republican Adam Kinzinger last time around.

“I’m working very hard to create jobs for the people of the Second District,” Jackson said through a spokesman. “I have what I believe is the largest jobs plan in the state of Illinois, and I will continue to push for that.”

Halvorson said that as she campaigned on Jackson’s home turf on Chicago’s South Side this past weekend, she was surprised how many voters said they wish he’d give up on the airport issue he has focused on for 16 years.

“They hate when he talks about the airport,” Halvorson said.

Jackson has also suffered bad press over a House Ethics Committee investigation of whether he used congressional staff in his effort to get appointed to Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Jackson has said he expects the investigation to exonerate him.

The poll of 300 voters via automated questions and 300 voters using live interviews, was conducted by Fako & Associates of Lisle, which said it is not working for either side in this race.