FLOSSMOOR - Five Republicans are vying for their party's nomination in the 2nd CD's February 26 Special Election. The election is being held to fill troubled US Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr's vacancy. The five GOPers on the 2nd CD primary ballot will be Lenny McAllister, Paul McKinley, Beverly Reid, James Taylor Sr and Eric Wallace.
In 2012, Congressman Jackson - who was known to be under federal investigation at the time - handily won re-election against Republican nominee Brian Woodworth with a 2 to 1 vote margin. Woodworth, a professor at Olivet Nazarene College in Kankakee, worked hard, but was unable to get financial support from the federal or state Republican organizations for his bid.
The newly-drawn 2nd CD does take in more traditionally Republican territory, extending into rural Kankakee and southwest suburban Will counties. But the bulk of the Democrat base in South Chicago and Cook County remains in the 2nd CD, so more media focus is on the multi-candidate Democrat primary.
But Flossmoor's Dr. Eric Wallace, who's known among Republican conservatives for his bids over the years for state senate, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate and school board, won a 2nd CD Republican forum straw poll with 47% three weeks ago. He believes the district could be ready to look at a Republican alternative in a low-turnout election.
Last week, Wallace traveled to DC to ask for National Republican Congressional Committee campaign assistance, and met a challenge to talk to the right people. It's the same story that Republicans don't see any hope of winning campaigns in black communities, so they don't invest and don't engage in races like Illinois' 2nd CD.
But Wallace found encouragement when he met with black U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who Wallace said he met several years ago.
"Senator Scott recalled meeting my wife Jennifer and me a few years ago," Wallace said. "I was honored to see him again and have him tell me how we met. He's a new role model for black conservatives."
Wallace said he's also reaching out for endorsement from former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, whom he supported as a delegate on Illinois Republican Primary slate in 2012.
Wallace said church leaders in the black community are frustrated with the Democrats' stand on issues like gay rights and abortion. "The churches teach values like traditional marriage and the sanctity of life," Wallace said. "Those positions line up with Republican stands more than Democrat stands."
Publisher of online Freedom Journal's Magazine, Wallace has developed contacts with national conservative blacks, and says he's proud to have the endorsement of well-known names such as Ken Blackwell and Dr. Alveda King. He stood with fellow black prolifers at the March for Life Friday on the Washington Mall.
Of the numerous Democrats running to fill Jackson's vacancy, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson - a white NRA-supporter from Will County - appears to be breaking out ahead. Halvorson was a state senator before running for Congress the first time in 2008, and losing the district to Tea Party-backed Adam Kinzinger in 2010. She lost to Jackson Jr in the Democratic 2012 primary.
Wallace says if the Republican Party would use this opportunity to invest in the 2nd CD, there's a chance for an upset and a party gain in the 2nd CD.
"The Republican Party's platform on social issues reflects what most church-going African Americans believe," he said. "Now's the time to try in the 2nd CD. Advancing Republican values now would reap benefits in Illinois for 2014, too."
(In full disclosure, Dr. Wallace mentioned in his autobiography Illinois Review's publisher and editor's support during Wallace's 2006 State Senate bid.)