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[From left to right: Mel Reynolds, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Gus Savage]

Last Friday, State Sen. Donne Trotter formally withdrew from the Second Congressional District special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. The announcement came three weeks after he was arrested at O'Hare for trying to pass through security with a concealed gun. At the time of his arrest, Trotter was considered the front-runner to win the special election. Of course, the special election had only come about because the avalanching shenanigans of Jesse Jackson, Jr. forced his resignation.

The incidents involving Trotter and Jackson are just the latest examples that show how the constituents of the second congressional district are cursed. Because there's no other way to explain the misfortune that has plagued the district's constituents over the last 30 years.

It wasn't always this way, though. For the first 150 years or so of the district's existence, it hosted a colorful collection of Congressmen.

James Woodworth, who held the seat from 1855 to 1857, also served several terms as Chicago mayor, was a founding trustee of both the "old" University of Chicago and the Chicago Astronomical Society, and helped make Chicago an economic center by guiding the Midwest's railways and water traffic through the city.

From 1903 to 1922, the congressman of the 2nd district was James Robert Mann, author of the Mann Act of 1910 (aka the White Slave Traffic Act) which prohibited the interstate transportation of women for prostitution.

Abner Mikva served as the district's representative from 1969 until 1973. In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals where he served until 1994 when he retired to serve as White House counsel for then-President Bill Clinton.

And from 1853 to 1855, just before Woodworth, there was John Wentworth whose two-year stint as the second district's rep was part of a long political career that culminated in his service as Chicago's mayor. Wentworth also served in Congress as a representative of Illinoi's first and fourth districts and during his Congressional tenure, he was offered a deal by Wisconsin that would have extended that state's border to the southern tip of Lake Michigan. His reward had he allowed the Badger state to expand? A seat in the U.S. Senate. Wentworth said no.

So, then, it's easy to understand why I can't help but view the district as anything but cursed. How else to explain that the last three representatives have been, in succession, a virulent racist, a statutory rapist, and a scandal-laden charlatan? How else to explain the ascension of Gus Savage, who held the seat from 1981 until 1993? Somehow, Savage held on to his seat for 12 years despite numerous challengers, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and accusations of verbally and physical sexual harassment of a Peace Corp. volunteer during a press junket tour of Ethiopia in 1989. He also had a habit of using homophobic slurs towards reporters whose questions he didn't like.

Finally ousting Savage in 1992 was an upstart reformer named Mel Reynolds. A graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, an MPA from Harvard, and a Rhodes Scholar, hopes were high for Reynolds. Instead, in August 1994, less than 2 years after his election, he was indicted on a host of charges stemming from a sexual relationship he carried on with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. In 1995, Reynolds was forced to resign his seat.

Winning the seat after Reynolds' exit was a charismatic up-and-comer, Jesse Jackson, Jr., son of the famed Rev. Jesse Jackson. For years, Jackson served without controversy, happy to build a reputation that helped him escape his father's shadow. Then, in 2008, he was connected to the pay-for-play scandal that ensnared then-governor Rod Blagojevich. Jackson allegedly offered up fundraising to Blago in exchange for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after he won the 2008 Presidential election.

In early June of this year, Jesse Jackson, Jr. made his last public appearance before disappearing into the ether. In the interim, he's been in and out of the Mayo Clinic for treatment of bipolar disorder, become the target of a federal investigation into misuse of campaign funds, and, jus weeks after winning re-election in November, resigned his seat in disgrace.

The curse's source remains unknown, the misery of the second district voters still intact as they prepare for yet another special election. Even Reynolds has risen from the political graveyard to run for his old seat, a specter of the past that continues to haunt the district. This, even after Savage, despite his morally repugnant behavior, managed to keep his seat for 12 years, never receiving less than 82 percent of the vote in a general election until 1990, the year after he was accused of sexual harassment, when he received "only" 78 percent of the vote.

Those dark cosmic forces maintained their veil over the electorate in November 1994 when Reynolds, just months after his statutory rape indictment, Reynolds, unopposed from any major party challenger, received 98 percent of the vote over several independent candidates in his re-election bid.

The curse's iron grip held fast when in November when Jackson, sight unseen, was never seriously challenged on his way to a startling victory in which he garnered 63 percent of the vote.

And so this curse of mysterious origins remains unabated, its cause still a mind-bending unknown, holding hostage the tortured souls of our state's Second Congressional District. No amount of voodoo seems to have reversed the cloud of calamity that has swallowed the area whole, keeping fraudulent abusers of power in place. There seems to be no magic remedy that can save them from this string of awful leaders who somehow, some way, manage to maintain their terrible cycle of darkness and dismay.

Even the once-mighty Cook County Democratic Party has been stymied, endorsing no one for the upcoming special election primary, handing over its faith to the fates and hoping for the best. And, that's all the district's voters can do: hope and pray that somehow this evil spell is broken, that, somehow, salvation will arrive and free the them from the malicious cycle that's held them captive for so long.

Updated with Duckworth react...

WASHINGTON--Outside groups are spending millions of dollars in Illinois House races with the most, so far, in a hotly contested race in central Illinois and the least in the Chicago area battle between Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Democrat Tammy Duckworth, according to Federal Election Commission records.

It appears that Duckworth's lead in the north/northwest suburban district has convinced outside groups--overall-- to keep their spending down. A close race between Rep. Bobby Schillling (R-Ill.) v Democrat Cheri Bustos in a district anchored near Peoria has spurred a spending war.

The FEC requires outside groups to report independent expenditures for or against a candidate. Outside spending is separate than money raised for a candidates' campaign. Independent expenditures consist of spending by individuals, groups, political committees, unions or corporations.

Under the rules, "these expenditures may not be made in concert or cooperation with or at the request or suggestion of a candidate, the candidate's campaign or a political party," according to the FEC.

With the election this close, spending above $1,000 must be reported to the FEC on a daily basis. The money is not divided equally. Duckworth spokesman Anton Becker said, "the ratio of outside spending is 10 to 1 against us and for Joe Walsh. I don't think the ratio is that one sided in the other races."

Here is the top spending in the most contested Illinois House races as of Monday, according to the FEC:

8th Congressional District, Walsh v Duckworth

10th Congressional District, Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) v Democrat Brad Schneider

11th Congressional District, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) v former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.)

12th Congressional District, Democrat William Enyart v Republican Jason Plummer

13th Congressional District, Democrat David Gill v Republican Rodney Davis

17th Congressional District, Rep. Bobby Schillling (R-Ill.) v Democrat Cheri Bustos

It's hard to believe but someone just topped Todd Akin in the "ridiculous rape and abortion remarks" department. During a debate tonight, Richard Mourdock, Indiana's GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, dropped the latest in a line of controversial sound bites by Republican candidates during this election cycle about abortion. During the debate, after saying the only exception for abortion he'd allow is if the mother's life is in danger, Mourdock then explained why he doesn't support abortions in the case of rape: "I've struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from god. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin raised hackles earlier this year when he claimed women who were victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant. Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, locked in a tense battle with Tammy Duckworth for his Congressional seat, claimed abortions were never necessary to save a mother's life.

In Indiana, the latest polls show U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) as holding a slim lead over Mourdock who is currently Indiana's state treasurer. Mourdock's website proudly displays an endorsement from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Update: After the debate, Mourdock backed off his comment, saying, "Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No, I don't think that anyone could suggest that. That's a sick, twisted - no, that's not even close to what I said."

Our sister publication in Merrillville, Ind., the Post-Tribune, has details on the debate.

Campaign numbers released to the Chicago Sun-Times show that U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert has raised more than $620,000 in the third quarter.

The numbers also show the campaign has spent $389,000 and has more than $1.7 million in cash on hand.

The senior congresswoman is in a tight race against Democrat Bill Foster -- one of three hotly contested congressional races that has garnered investment from national parties and that has engaged in ad wars. A new remap cut Biggert out of her own district, having her run in a new, Democrat-leaning territory -- which has her fighting to hang on to her long-held seat.

"Judy is honored and humbled by the outpouring of support for her candidacy from Americans from all walks of life. In the last quarter, Judy has raised more than $620,000, a personal best and a testament to the strength of her campaign as we enter the final weeks," said campaign spokesman Gill Stevens.

Attack ads against Biggert bristled the congresswoman to the point that she canceled a Tuesday debate sponsored by AARP, saying the group's logo and quotes were featured in unfair ads against her.

The Foster campaign reported to the Sun-Times that it hauled in slightly more in the same quarter at $640,000 in what it called "its most successful fundraising quarter this election cycle."

Official disclosures are due to be released Oct. 15th.

Judy Biggert pulls out of Tuesday debate

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U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert is no longer taking part in a Tuesday debate that was sponsored by AARP and would have been broadcast on WLS.

Biggert, a Republican from Hinsdale, informed the group today -- one day after a House Majority PAC launched a TV ad attack against the congresswoman. The ad includes a pull quote dated April 6, 2011 that was attributed to AARP. The commercial has Biggert's name at the top of the screen and the pull quote says: "Increase costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare's promise of secure health coverage."

When contacted, AARP confirmed Biggert pulled out but said the congresswoman would have to explain why.

"We were informed by the Biggert campaign that they were withdrawing," said Heather Heppner Associate State Director for Communications for AARP of Illinois. "Certainly, we're disappointed that we cannot continue with the debate."

Biggert and her Democratic opponent Bill Foster are in a tight race for the 11th congressional district, which was redrawn to favor Democrats.

"Congresswoman Biggert has broken her commitment to seniors yet again, and now refuses explain why she voted to slash their hard-earned benefits, " Foster, said in a statement. "The Ryan/Biggert budget would end the guaranteed benefit for Medicare, force seniors to pay more for their prescriptions starting immediately and leave future seniors with thousands of dollars in additional costs. "

Clearly viewing Illinois as fertile ground to win over congressional seats, the House Majority PAC, which aims to put Democrats back into the lead in Washington, on Tuesday disclosed it had pumped $2.4 million into the three key Chicago-area races - including U.S. House races in the 8th, 10th and 11th congressional districts. One ad, called "loud" uses Joe Walsh as a centerpiece to attack three Republican races.

Biggert's campaign says she withdrew because AARP was not acting "as a neutral arbiter."

"We regret that we were compelled to withdraw from next week's AARP debate as the organization has proven itself unable to act as a neutral arbiter. AARP was cited, and its logo used, by no less than three liberal organizations in mail and on television to attack Judy Biggert and impugn her record on issues vital to seniors. When contacted on this matter, AARP officials made it clear that they were unwilling to stop this use of their logo and imprimatur. As a result, we severely doubted the ability of the organization to act as a impartial and objective host in this forum."

Here's the ad specifically targeting Biggert.

And then there's this DCCC ad, which also cites AARP as it slams Biggert, saying she gave herself pay raises while seniors paid more for Medicare.

The Duckworth-Walsh Debate from Rolling Meadows

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Natasha Korecki will be following tonight's debate in Illinois' 8th Congressional District, pitting Joe Walsh against Tammy Duckworth. Follow her reports from the debate, as well as others, here, at, at, and on Twitter.

Storified by Chicago Sun-Times · Tue, Oct 09 2012 15:37:30

Duckworth, Walsh to debate in Rolling Meadows TuesdayA major makeover project, which will cost $203 million, is coming to the CTA's Wilson Red Line station. A major makeover project, which w...
Video: Dems use "loud" Joe Walsh clips to slam three IL GOP congressional candidates. Sun-Times Politics: korecki
Dem PAC pumps $2.4 million to attack Illinois Republicans in three key races - Sun-Times Politics: korecki

Previous debates and history

This will not be the first debate between Rep. Walsh and Tammy Duckworth. This video is from earlier this year:
Rep Joe Walsh Debates Tammy Duckworth 5 11 12csteventucker

Pelosi Fundraiser.jpg

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will work to boost congressional democrats at a Chicago fund-raiser on Saturday at Harry Caray's.

Tickets run from $500 to $10,000.

"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has six of their highest priority races right here in Illinois and all six candidates will be features as part of our lunch on the 6th," the invite says.

In the Chicago area, that includes contests in the Illinois 8th, 10th and 11th congressional districts.

Poll: Walsh 14 points behind in race against Duckworth

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Despite having a recent boost from a new SuperPac, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is trailing in a poll taken in one of the most competitive congressional races in the country. Just 35 percent of those polled in the 8th congressional district said they approved of his work in Congress. By contrast, his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, carried a 50 percent approval rating.

That's according to Public Policy Polling, which published numbers Tuesday saying 54 percent of voters would support Duckworth and 38 percent would support Walsh. Of those polled, 31 percent described themselves as Democrats, 33 percent as Republican and 36 percent as independent or other.

Illinois congressional race top 10 in money raised nationwide

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When it comes to raising money, the 10th congressional district race notches among the top 10 highest in the nation. ranked the 10th congressional district contest as the 10th highest in the nation with candidates raising more than $5.5 million.

Incumbent Bob Dold, a Republican has raised $2.8 million and spent $844,000, according to the site.
His challenger, Brad Schneider, a Democrat, raised $1.6 million.

The 10th district -- Mark Kirk's old district -- encompasses the northeast corner of the state, including the North Shore.