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Jesse Jackson Jr. Wins Illinois Primary: Fends Off Debbie Halvorson's 2nd District Challenge

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JESSE JACKSON JR DEBBIE HALVORSON ILLINOIS PRIMARY
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson. | AP

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) jumped out to an early lead over his 2nd Congressional District primary challenger Debbie Halvorson and never looked back Tuesday evening.

The Associated Press called the race for Jackson.

Halvorson conceded the race to Jackson just before 9 p.m. CDT, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Halvorson, a one-time Mary Kay saleswoman, was described in the New York Times last week as Jackson's "first substantial challenger" in an election. Despite the seriousness of the challenge, Jackson was long believed to be on the path toward victory.

In campaign ads, Jackson consistently criticized Halvorson's voting record as a one-term congresswoman. In a TV spot titled "Pam," he said his rival "sided and voted with the Republicans and the NRA against gun control." In another campaign ad, he accused Halvorson for voting against President Obama 88 times while in Congress and for voting more "like a conservative Republican" than the progressive Democrat she campaigned as.

Halvorson said Jackson was "lying" and "distorting my record" in response to the Jackson spots and proceeded to argue that her opponent voted against "almost every one of the president's job bills."

The race in Illinois's 2nd Congressional District -- newly redrawn to include more white and rural voters, including some of Halvorson's former district -- was long a tense one. At a February campaign event, Pastor Willie James Campbell of St. James Ministries, a Jackson supporter, said that "Satanic forces" were behind the obstacles to the incumbent congressman's re-election and that Halvorson's agenda represents a "political demonic force." Jackson's camp never responded publicly to Campbell's bizarre statements.

Jackson remains the subject of a House Ethics Committee probe into reports that he was involved in trying to raise money for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for being appointed to President Obama's old Senate seat. Jackson has denied the allegations and maintained that he'll be vindicated.

"People are very confused," Halvorson told NPR of Jackson's ethics probe. "They don't know how Rod Blagojevich can be going to jail for 14 years for trying to sell a seat and nothing is happening to Jesse Jackson Jr. because they know that he's connected to the whole scandal."

Nevertheless, Jackson has long retained strong name recognition, a name that Robert Starks, a professor at Northeastern Illinois University observed, "represents more than 40 years of activism in the African American community, particularly in Chicago."

As recently as last week, Jackson was polling ahead of Halvorson 59 percent to 23 percent, NBC Chicago reported.

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