Brian Woodworth knows Republicans almost never get elected to the 2nd Congressional District.
The district has elected one Republican in the last 77 years and none since Jesse Jackson Jr. started winning in landslides in 1995.
"The odds are against me," said Woodworth, a 41-year-old from Bourbonnais, with a chuckle. "I'm maintaining my hope that, yes, it could happen."
This year has been atypical: Jackson has been out of office since June getting treatment for bipolar disorder, and is the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegations he raised money to bid for Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
Woodworth said he began his campaign prior to Jackson's diagnosis.
The Illinois Legislature redrew the district boundaries last year, following the 2010 Census. The 2nd District, which was primarily urban and left-leaning, now also includes Kankakee and Will counties, two 80-percent white, conservative-leaning areas.
"Even Jackson himself was angry," he said. "Knowing Kankakee and Will counties, these are lean-Republican areas."
Woodworth's campaign has spent about $11,000 and received about $15,000 in donations, according to the Federal Elections Commission website.
Woodworth said he has personally invested $3,000 into running. He also gave up his job teaching law at Olivet Nazarene University.
But Woodworth, who has three children, remains confident that campaigning is the right decision, because "no one else was going to run."
Gary Reaman, 44, a truck driver, came to one of Woodworth's meet-and-greet events in Momence, in the south end the district in Kankakee County. He said he votes every year and will definitely vote for Woodworth, whom he found to be more in touch with his county than Jackson.
He said Jackson "is more of a city guy. He's up in Chicago; he has no idea what's going on down here. I just don't think he cares about small-town Illinois."
Calls to the Jackson campaign were not returned.
Woodworth said he is more challenged by convincing straight-ticket voters in the district than connecting with the district's black population.
"People say how in the world does a white Republican think he carries any chance in a black district," he said. "Much as race matters, there are other important factors."
He believes his top campaign issue of job creation matters to everyone.
He said one way he hopes to create jobs is by offering incentives for green tech companies to move to empty land in the 10th Ward.
Adam Robinson, chair of the Chicago Republican Party, said he hopes Republicans like Woodworth continue to run in challenging districts to introduce the party's ideas and slowly change Illinois into a swing state
Robinson added that Woodworth is contributing to the checks-and-balances of healthy bipartisan politics.
"It's always challenging here in Chicago for Republicans," he said. "Even if we're not successful, opposition candidates force incumbents to think before they act. The Chicago Republican Party in particular is proud of our responsibility to our state and our country to fill the ballot in districts with candidates like Brian, who is doing a heck of a job."