Lone Republican running for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s House seat: No to voter ID, yes to affirmative action

Jana Benscoter | Contributor

The lone Republican in the race to succeed the disgraced former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. isn’t a typical GOP candidate. He supports affirmative action — “for at least one more generation.” He won’t agree to anti-tax pledges in the face of the fiscal cliff. He spoke against voter ID laws this year during an NAACP press conference. And he’s no fan of efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

But in a sea of Democratic rivals — about 12 so far — and in a Chicago political scene that favors liberal politics, Lenny McAllister just might fit right in.

Democrats on Chicago’s South Side have held on to the 2nd Congressional District seat for more than a half-century. The last Republican to win in that part of the state did it in 1950.

McAllister has no legislative experience, and he has never won an election. He ran in two local races, losing each time, in North Carolina.

He faces a field of Democrats that reportedly includes defense attorney Sam Adams Jr., who defended accused pedophile R. Kelly and former Illinois Gov. Rob Blagojevich. Napoleon Harris, a former NFL running back who just won a state Senate race, is another. Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson is a candidate too, representing the uber-wealthy village of Olympia Fields.

Even Jonathan Jackson — Jesse Jackson Jr.’s brother — is in the race.

And McAllister faces one more obstacle: an April 9 general election date that coincides with a Chicago municipal election — the kind that brings Democratic voters out in far greater numbers than Republicans’ typically anemic responses.

This is an election that wasn’t supposed to happen. Jesse Jackson, Jr. won re-election in November but resigned following allegations that he misused campaign finance funds. He is also undergoing treatments for his diagnosed bipolar disorder.

Cook County, Illinois Democrats will choose a primary candidate to endorse during a slating meeting on December 15.

Facing that Democratic machine, McAllister is an unlikely candidate. He has lived in the 2nd Congressional District for just two years, producing a radio program on WVON, “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister” from 2010 to 2011.

The station let him go after he became involved in a dispute between McDonald’s and a fired restaurant employee — a 21-year old night manager who took time off to be with his two-day old premature baby son before he died.

McAllister said on the air — repeatedly — that the firing was unjust. He called for a community-wide boycott. McAllister claims McDonald’s pressured the station to give him the boot, and ultimately prevailed over dissenting opinions from both tea partiers and the NAACP.

The Pennsylvania native has written for Politic365, a website that caters to African-American politics. That outlet published a transcript of McAllister’s remarks during a September 2012 NAACP press event in Philadelphia. In that appearance, McAllister warned Republicans “against taking back America by taking away legitimate access to ballot boxes.”

McAllister told The Daily Caller in a phone interview that he is not in sync with the platform from the 2012 Republican National Convention.

“I believe in affirmative action for at least one more generation, until the economic employment and education disparities in America begin to shrink permanently,” he said.

“Another example is our approach to abortion. The most effective way for pro-life Republicans like me to weaken Roe v. Wade is to make Roe v. Wade irrelevant through education, advocacy and respectful activism. Through those efforts, one day Roe v. Wade may fall off the books without much notice or divisiveness.”

And given what he called “Republicans’ willingness to negotiate taxing the [top] 2 percent” of income-earners, McAllister told TheDC that he wouldn’t  adhere to any anti-tax pledges if he should pull off an election-day miracle.

“I adamantly support and understand the need to support tax rates that facilitate business investment into struggling urban environments, such as the Northern part of the 2nd district,” he said.

McAllister added that he is unaware of any other Republicans who are running against him. He said he is investigating whether  campaign finance laws would permit him to fund his campaign with money he raised for his unseccessful North Carolina races.

The heavily Democratic District will hold its primary on Feb. 26. Republicans have not yet announced when — or whether — they will hold an election to choose their candidate.

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