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Chicago’s Robin Kelly On Track to Join List of Black Women to Serve In Congress

Robin Kelly

Former Illinois state representative and Democratic U.S. Congressional hopeful Robin Kelly speaks to the International Ministers & Community Alliance Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, in Chicago after receiving their endorsement. Kelly is part of a large field of candidates who hope to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois' 2nd Congressional Seat. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

Once, the special election to succeed the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois' 2nd District seemed impossible to handicap, especially with some two dozen or so candidates on the ballot.

Thus, it became not so much a horse race discussion as a conversation dominated by concerns about race and guns. Now, according to many observers, many of the questions have given way to the sense that Tuesday's winner will be Robin Kelly, a former state representative. (We officially must wait for the general election, on April 9.)

Race became the issue when the Democratic primary election was pitting one major white candidate, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, against a field of multiple African-American hopefuls, including Kelly. The fear among some in the black community was that Halvorson — who represented a different district for one term until her 2010 defeat and who unsuccessfully challenged Jackson in the 2012 primary — would have the advantage in a split black field. But some of leading black candidates, such as state Sens. Toi Hutchinson, Napolean Harris and Donne Trotter, withdrew and endorsed Kelly.

As for guns, that issue may have benefited Kelly as well. Both Halvorson and Hutchinson (who before going to the state Senate was a top Halvorson aide) were the recipients of A+ ratings from the National Rifle Association. With Chicago the scene of a huge increase in gun violence (and gun-caused deaths) in recent months, the political action committee of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come into the district with TV ads attacking Halvorson (and, when she was still in the race, Hutchinson) for their positions on guns. The ads have been effective.

Still, Tuesday's primary is no slam dunk for Kelly. Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale is waging a strong campaign as well. And Halvorson, while dramatically weakened in recent weeks, remains a strong factor.

But if Kelly wins — and that's the guess here — she will become the 30th African-American female elected to the House in the nation's history. And, as it just so happens, the entire list is here for you to peruse.

Everyone on the list is a Democrat. This is a chronologically-arranged list of every black woman elected to the House, with the year of her election, how she got to Washington and, when applicable, why she left. The list does not include non-voting delegates elected to the House.

 

1968: Shirley Chisholm (NY). Won in newly-created district. Retired in 1982.

1972: Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (CA). Won in newly-created district. Gave up seat in 1978 in an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general.

Barbara Jordan (TX). Won in newly-created district. Retired in 1978.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1973: Cardiss Collins (IL). Won special election to succeed her late husband, Rep. George Collins (D). Retired in 1996.

1982: Katie Hall (IN). Won special election following the death of Rep. Adam Benjamin (D). Lost bid for renomination in the 1984 Democratic primary to Peter Visclosky, who won the seat and still serves.

1990: Barbara-Rose Collins (MI). Won open seat being vacated by Rep. George Crockett. Lost bid for renomination in the 1996 Democratic primary to Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, also an African American, who won the seat.

Maxine Waters (CA). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Gus Hawkins (D). Still serves.

1992: Corrine Brown (FL). Won in newly-created district. Still serves.

Eva Clayton (NC). Won special election following the death of Rep. Walter Jones (D) in redrawn district. Retired in 2002.

Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX). Won in newly-created district. Still serves.

Cynthia McKinney (GA). Won in newly created district. Lost bid for renomination in the 2002 Democratic primary to Denise Majette, another African American, who won the seat. When Majette ran for the Senate in 2004, McKinney won back her old seat. Lost bid for renomination in the 2006 Democratic primary to Hank Johnson, another African American, who won the seat and who still serves.

Carrie Meek (FL). Won in newly created district. Retired in 2002.

1994: Sheila Jackson Lee (TX). Unseated Rep. Craig Washington (D), another African American, in Democratic primary. Still serves.

1996: Juanita Millender-McDonald (CA). Won special election in March 1996 following resignation of Rep. Walter Tucker (D). Died in office April 2007.

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI). Unseated Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins (D), another African American, in Democratic primary. Lost bid for renomination in the 2010 Democratic primary to Hansen Clarke, also an African American, who won the seat.

Julia Carson (IN). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Andy Jacobs (D). Died in office December 2007.

1998: Barbara Lee (CA). Won special election in April 1998 following resignation of Rep. Ron Dellums (D). Still serves.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Louis Stokes (D). Died in office August 2008.

2001: Diane Watson (CA). Won special election following death of Rep. Julian Dixon (D). Retired in 2010.

2002: Denise Majette (GA). Unseated Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), another African American, in Democratic primary. Vacated seat in 2004 to run for the Senate.

2004: Gwen Moore (D-WI). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Gerald Kleczka (D). Still serves.

2006: Yvette Clarke (NY). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Major Owens (D). Still serves.

2007: Laura Richardson (CA). Won special election following death of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald. Lost bid for re-election in 2012 to fellow Rep. Janice Hahn (D).

2008: Donna Edwards (MD). Unseated Rep. Albert Wynn, another African American, in Democratic primary. Still serves.

Marcia Fudge (OH). Won special election following death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D). Still serves.

2010: Terri Sewell (AL). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Artur Davis (D), who ran for governor. Still serves.

Karen Bass (CA). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Diane Watson (D). Still serves.

Frederica Wilson (FL). Won open seat vacated by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D), who ran for Senate. Still serves.

2012: Joyce Beatty (OH). Won in newly-created district. Still serves.

Categories: History, Politics