CHICAGO | Tenth Ward Alderman John Pope is endorsing the congressional campaign of former state Rep. Robin Kelly over that of his City Council colleague Anthony Beale in Tuesday’s special Democratic primary election.
Pope said he had met personally with both Kelly and Beale, as well as former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, before reaching his decision on Wednesday. Those three are considered the front-runners in a field of 14 Democrats in Tuesday's primary. There also are five candidates in the Republican primary.
Pope’s decision is unusual in that most City Council members who have endorsed someone to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress have chosen to support their aldermanic colleague Beale.
Beale, the 9th Ward alderman who represents neighborhoods such as Roseland and Pullman, has said 20 of the 50 aldermen support his campaign.
But Pope said he believes Kelly, a former state legislator, chief of staff to the Illinois treasurer’s office and chief administrative officer to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is the most viable Democrat seeking the party’s nomination in the Tuesday primary, which is a prelude to the April 9 general election.
Pope said he has nothing against Beale, who has been a City Council member since 1999, as has Pope. He also noted that Halvorson received significant voter support in the 10th Ward when she ran against Jackson in the 2012 Democratic primary for the congressional seat.
“I just think that the best person for the 2nd District is Robin Kelly,” Pope said. “I am comfortable endorsing Robin, and I believe she will win.”
Pope’s endorsement came the same day that all three front-runners were among 10 candidates participating in a forum held in the 10th Ward, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 3200 E. 91st St.
The program organized by groups such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Alliance of the Southeast, the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos and Claretian Associates emphasized questions concerning immigration reform, although issues such as jobs, housing and urban violence also were discussed.
Halvorson, a Crete resident, said she supports immigration reform and would want to increase her contacts with Spanish-speaking enclaves in Chicago and the suburbs by hiring a liaison.
“I will hire somebody from your community to help me understand,” she said.
Beale said he would want to take money that conservative interests want to spend on increased security along the U.S.-Mexico border and shift it to education and programs that could create jobs.
All candidates expressed support for measures meant to bolster the federal minimum wage, although Kelly said she’d be willing to support some type of tax credit to help businesses that believe paying higher wages will hurt their bottom line.