Laura Washington: A crowd gathers to challenge Mark Kirk

SHARE Laura Washington: A crowd gathers to challenge Mark Kirk

A Penny for your thoughts, Illinois Democrats? As the state’s U.S. Senate race heats up, Democratic names are emerging to compete against U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016.For my two cents, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker could be The One.OPINION

The Democratic primary field is looking lackluster. U.S. Rep. and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth announced in March and is still trying to consolidate her party’s support.Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea Zopp is telling the media she’s “all in.”TheChicago Sun-Times’ Michael Sneed reports that State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, the wonky, low key South Side legislator, also is angling at the race.Duckworth, a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs in battle, is a congenial and popular figure in some circles. Other influential Democratic activists fret that Duckworth’s legislative record is weak and her policy acumen is thin.Zopp boasts a Harvard University Law degree and blue-chip corporate credentials. She was also a leading decider on the Chicago Board of Education when it closed 49 Chicago Public schools in 2013.William “Bill” Daley and “other” unnamed Democratic leaders reportedly are pushing Zopp, an African-American. They supposedly argue that, without President Barack Obama on the ticket, the party needs someone who can get black folks to the polls.Now, there’s a potent message to the base. In other words, we won’t vote unless there’s a black face on the ballot.Who are the “other” Democrats behind Zopp. Why are they anonymous?Congresswoman Robin Kelly and Collins are also African-American. Kelly was elected in the 2nd Congressional District in 2013. She must relinquish her seat to run. If any two get in, they will split that precious black vote and hand Duckworth the nomination.Democrats may want to think about a Penny. I am not a slobberer, but note that Pritzker brings a national reputation. The crack business executive and heir to the billon-dollar Hyatt Hotel fortune can access serious pennies for an expensive Senate campaign.As the finance chair of Obama’s 2008 presidential bid, she broke fundraising records.As a cabinet appointee, her background has already been vetted, so there may be little fish left for the opposition researchers to fry.Pritzker has worked aggressively to mend the frayed ties between Obama and the business community. She could do the same for Democrats in Illinois, and her no-nonsense business approach could be a catalyst for Illinois’ flailing economy.Kirk is a moderate-to-conservative Republican who has collaborated with his Democratic colleagues. He stepped out to back Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general. Kirk can count on the backing of megabucks Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.Kirk has made remarkable and courageous strides in his recovery from the serious stroke he suffered early in his term. Still, the specter of his medical history hangs low.In March Stuart Rothenberg, the elections maven at Roll Call, wrote that while Kirk has a shot, he “has a significantly uphill fight for a second term. I regard him as an underdog.”“[Illinois’] fundamentals are so difficult for any Republican — even one with his appeal — that he is less than even money to win in 2016,”Rothenberg added.If Hillary Clinton leads the presidential ticket, 2016 will be another year of the woman. Could a Penny be in play?Email: lauraswashington@aol.comTwitter: @MediaDervish

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