On a dreary day in an area that has seen more than its fair share of ethically-challenged elected officials, an expectedly low voter turnout was the story at many polling places Tuesday as residents came out to cast their ballots in the race to replace former Illinois 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Polling places remained mostly empty throughout the district during much of the morning, an outcome that can be attributed just as much to a high level of voter apathy than to the snowy weather.
Such was the scene at Bennett Elementary School on the far South Side, where congressional candidate and 9th Ward Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale went to cast his ballot this morning.
Speaking to reporters, Beale said his main priority, if elected, will be to address the lack of job opportunities within the district, which he felt tied into many of the other social problems many communities in the district have faced over the years.
“We all know that the economy is bad because we don’t have enough jobs, the foreclosure problem is high because we don’t have jobs, crime is high because we don’t have jobs,” Beale said. “So if we send a job creator to Washington, which I have a proven track record of doing, then we can create jobs in order to turn our community around and give our kids another option other than just hanging out on the street.”
One of the keys to economic revitalization in the district, according to the alderman, is the establishment of a third airport located in the south suburbs, an issue that was championed for years by Jackson.
“That’s how we’re going to turn our community around, it’s all about jobs,” Beale said. “We all know once jobs come to the area, you will see the entire community start thriving, and the quality of life will be uplifted from beginning to end.”
Beale is one of three candidates within a crowded field that many view as having a legitimate chance of winning today’s Democratic primary, which for all intent and purposes would make them the odds-on favorite to win the general election in April.
Other frontrunners include former State Rep. Robin Kelly and former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who challenged and lost the Democratic nomination to Jackson Jr. last March.
Beale said voters were ready to move on from the controversies of the past, which have seen the last three of the district’s representatives either accused or convicted of some sort of impropriety involving their elected office.
“It’s unfortunate, but you cannot continue to look back, we have to continue to look forward” Beale said. “I believe the way we’re going to put confidence back in the people is by having ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings, and that way people know the resources are coming back to the district, and they’ll know that their congressman is working on their behalf.”