Jonathan Jackson wins 1st District congressional race, Danny Davis leads in 7th

The son of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. beat 16 other Democrats, while longtime Congressman Davis defeated a progressive rival.

U.S. House Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Jonathan Jackson speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters on June 23.
U.S. House Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Jonathan Jackson speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters on June 23. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times
U.S. House Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Jonathan Jackson speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters on June 23.
U.S. House Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Jonathan Jackson speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters on June 23. Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

Jonathan Jackson wins 1st District congressional race, Danny Davis leads in 7th

The son of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. beat 16 other Democrats, while longtime Congressman Davis defeated a progressive rival.

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The son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson won Tuesday’s primary election for the congressional seat that had been held for 30 years by former Black Panther Bobby Rush, while longtime U.S. Rep. Danny Davis appeared to have fended off a progressive challenger to secure a 14th term in Congress.

First-time candidate Jonathan Jackson, buoyed by name recognition from his famous father and more than $1 million in outside spending by groups affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry, had been leading in most polls since he announced his candidacy to replace Rush in February.

Seventeen candidates had sought to replace Rush in the primary, the winner of which is all but assured of winning the seat in the November general election.

The mood was jubilant at the DuSable Museum of African American History as Jonathan Jackson, joined by his father and a full band, took the stage to announce victory around 9 p.m.

With 87% of precincts reporting, Jackson led the field with 28% of ballots cast, trailed by Ald. Pat Dowell with 19 % and Rush’s endorsed pick for the seat, Karin Norington-Reaves, with 14%.

Army veteran Carlson led the four-way GOP race with 41% of the vote, trailed by gun shop owner Jeffrey Regnier’s 39%.

November will mark the first time Rush’s name won’t appear on the congressional general election ballot to represent the historic 1st District for the first time since 1992.

But Davis’ dynasty in the 7th District survived a well-financed campaign by gun violence activist Kina Collins, who was challenging the longtime congressman for a second time. With 81% of precincts reporting, Davis led Collins 51% to 47%.

The 1st District, long anchored in the Black enclaves on the city’s South Side now stretches south and west and includes an even larger swath of the south suburbs, stretching from near the lakefront down almost to Kankakee.

Jonathan Jackson touted the experience he gained working at the side of his civil rights icon father, seldom mentioning his brother, disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who represented the adjacent 2nd District from 1995 to 2012, when he resigned amid a scandal over misuse of campaign funds that sent him in federal prison.

Jonathan Jackson, who campaigned for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid, was endorsed by the Vermont senator and local progressives, including 4th District U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Dowell, who represents the 3rd Ward in the City Council in the heart of the district, had built a statewide campaign to run for secretary of state before jumping into the congressional race.

Jackson trailed in fundraising as of the last finance report and was battered by opponents for his failure to file financial disclosure reports until just days before the election. Then, in the final weeks of the campaign, Jackson got a big boost from more than $500,000 in ad spending by a political action committee backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Samuel Bankman-Fried, whose Bahamas-based cryptocurrency exchange FTX has a headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop.

All told, Jackson benefited from outside expenditures of more than $1 million from three PACs with ties to the cryptocurrency industry. Bankman-Fried donated $23 million of the $24 million raised by Protect Our Future PAC.

Jackson’s website prominently featured two campaign issues, cryptocurrency regulation and emergency preparedness, that his competitors said was not important to 1st District residents but are priorities of Protect Our Future.

Davis dynasty survives challenge

The primary battle between Davis and Collins in the 7th District got national press attention as a barometer of the ongoing struggle between moderate Democrats and a new generation of more progressive newcomers.

Collins, a community activist, was backed by nearly $400,000 in spending by the progressive Justice Democrats PAC —which recruited U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib to run in 2020.

Collins improved on her 14% showing in 2020, when Davis won 60% of the votes in a four-way race. This time around, Denarvis Mendenhall, an Air Force veteran, finished third with 2%.

While Collins raised about $150,000 more than Davis during the campaign cycle and out-spent the incumbent $530,000 to $136,000, but Davis was buoyed late by endorsements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden — as well as a burst of $425,000 in spending from a “dark money” group affiliated with moderate Democratic House leaders.

There was no candidate in the Republican primary for the seat.