One of the most compelling candidates for Chicago mayor -- if not one of the highest vote-getters -- could find herself with a new political career in Springfield, with no election required.
Dr. Patricia Watkins was raised a child of the projects, and by the age of 17 was addicted to cocaine, signing over her paychecks from the steel mill where she worked directly to her dealer. But through a miraculous turnaround, she kicked drugs and became a fiery community advocate, lobbying the city and state for investment in poor and underserved communities. (See HuffPost Chicago's in-depth profile of Dr. Watkins here.)
She organized a grass-roots campaign for mayor, largely funded by Apostle Joseph Stanford, a central figure in her personal, religious and political careers. Despite raising over half a million dollars, Watkins won just shy of 10,000 votes in the February 22 election.
But her political career, it seems, may not be over yet. NBC Chicago reports that she is being considered by Democratic party leaders to fill a vacant state representative seat.
Watkins was in the running to fill the Senate seat vacated by the abrupt retirement of Rickey Hendon. But after many long rounds of intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations, State Rep. Annazette Collins won the seat, thanks in large part to backing from Ald. Sharon Denise Dixon, whose ward lies in Hendon's former district.
With Collins moving up, her old seat in the state House then fell vacant. She recommended her daughter for the job, but with characteristic directness, County Commissioner John Fritchey dismissed that notion. "I would say that that is highly unlikely, and that's probably an understatement," he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In fact, it seems likely that the job may fall to Watkins. Secretary of State Jesse White controls most of the weighted votes in Collins's 10th District, and White backed Watkins for the Senate vacancy. Fritchey also seemed to like her, Tweeting, "Impressive presentation by Patricia Watkins. Lot of Springfield experience."
According to NBC, Dr. Watkins has said that she would continue to fight for her signature issues, like jobs for ex-offenders and sealing criminal records of those with low-level felonies, at the state level.