CHICAGO — The race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress got a lot more crowded Monday as 12 more candidates joined the field — bringing the total to 22.
On the final day to submit petitions to run in the Feb. 26 primary for the 2nd Congressional District special election, eight Democrats and four Republicans joined the race.
Former member of Congress Debbie Halvorson of Crete, who lost to Jackson in the primary last year, filed at the end of the day Monday. John Blyth of the Woodlawn neighborhood and Ernest Fenton of south suburban Markham filed earlier in the day, followed by Anthony Williams of Dolton, Larry Pickens of the Stony Island Park neighborhood, O. Patrick Brutus of Chatham, Fatimah Muhammad of West Chesterfield and Joyce Washington of South Shore.
That brings the total number of Democrats to 17. Previous entrants in the race include Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), state Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields, state Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris of Flossmoor, former state Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson and former Congressman Mel Reynolds of Dolton, as well as Clifford Eagleton of Harvey, Victor Jonathan of Country Club Hills, Gregory Haynes of Lynwood and Charles Rayburn of Dolton.
On the Republican side, Beverly Reid of Chicago joined the previously announced Lenny McAllister of Maywood. Paul McKinley of Bronzeville, Freedom's Journal Magazine publisher Eric Wallace of Flossmoor and James Taylor Sr. of downstate Bradley also entered the contest Monday.
All face an uphill battle in the district, which has traditionally been Democratic.
The district stretches from the South Side through Will County to Kankakee County, but the majority of voters are in the south suburbs.
Jackson resigned the seat, which he had held since 1996, after winning re-election in November. He has been treated for bipolar syndrome, as well as being under the cloud of a federal corruption investigation.
State Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago dropped out of the race after being caught with a gun in the security check at O'Hare International Airport. Other potential candidates such as Jackson's wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), former Cook County executive Kurt Summers and Chicago defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. have declined to enter the race.
Trotter had been considered the front-runner, but the race is now wide open. With 17 candidates in the Democratic primary, it's possible to win with under 10 percent of the vote.
Independents and other parties can file for the April 9 special election at the end of the month, but would have to post more than 10 times the signatures that the major parties do.