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Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Conflict With Illinois Map Might Draw Challengers

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) finds himself in political hot water this week after publicly questioning the legal integrity of the state’s new Congressional map.

Not only are the two other black House Members in the delegation reportedly backing away from Jackson, but sources say two Democrats are now thinking about challenging him in next year’s primary.

Jackson’s political mess started last week when he told Roll Call that Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis and he were concerned that the state’s new Congressional map did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. Separately, Davis told Roll Call that he, Jackson and Rush declined to contribute $10,000 from his campaign fund to help Democrats’ legal defense to fight a GOP lawsuit over the map.

But now Davis and Rush are thinking twice about their refusal to chip in to the fund, according to local Chicago news reports.

Davis told the Associated Press on Friday that he’s still undecided about “whether or not I’m going to participate” in the legal defense of the map. On Monday, Rush’s press aide told the Illinois political insider publication Capitol Fax that he also had not made a final decision.

Jackson’s spokesman, Frank Watkins, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, there might be major ramifications for Jackson’s electoral future. At least two Democrats are now thinking about challenging Jackson, at least in part because of his comments.

Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson continues to consider challenging Jackson, her longtime political adversary. A source said she will begin circulating petitions soon to test her support against him in the March primary.

City Alderman Anthony Beale (D) is also considering running against Jackson, according to two Chicago-area Democratic sources.

Beale didn’t deny his interest in a Congressional bid in a statement passed on by his spokeswoman Monday.

“I’m focused on doing the best job I can as Alderman of the 9th ward,” Beale said.

The Illinois Democratic Congressional delegation is furious with Jackson for bringing up his criticism of the map months after the governor signed it into law.

Jackson indicated he’s concerned that Chicago’s Hispanic population might merit a second House district. That’s the crux of the GOP argument to overturn the new map in court.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) accosted Jackson on the House floor about his comments late last week. Gutierrez represents a district with a heavy majority Hispanic population, which could change if Republicans win their lawsuit and another Hispanic-majority district has to be carved out.

“He’s playing with an enormous hornet’s nest here, and he’s inviting a third party into the race,” one Chicago Democratic insider said. “What has brought all this to the forefront is his own doing.”

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