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Dems to meet with 15 seekers of Jackson seat

CHICAGO – More than a dozen candidates hoping to win Jesse Jackson Jr.'s former congressional seat plan to meet with Cook County Democratic officials next weekend for an endorsement session.

The Cook County Democratic Party has said it will back one candidate, which would give any potential replacement a boost particularly with fundraising and volunteers.

Jackson resigned from Congress last month citing his health and acknowledging he's under federal investigation reportedly for misuse of campaign finances. His vacancy creates a rare opening and numerous candidates have indicated that they're interested in the seat. Jackson first won the Chicago area seat in a 1995 special election. It's largely Democratic territory including Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.

Cook County Democratic officials plan to meet Saturday in suburban Chicago for their endorsement session.

"We have 15 on the list," Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli told the Chicago Sun-Times in a story published Sunday.

Each candidate will get five minutes to make a pitch and then Democratic committeemen will ask questions. After that, committeemen will go into caucus.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who Jackson beat in a primary earlier this year, is on the list of Democratic candidates. Others include: Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, former state Rep. Robin Kelly, former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds and state Sen. Donne Trotter.

Democrats with Zuccarelli's organization had publicly backed Trotter, but last week he was arrested for allegedly trying to bring a gun onto an airplane. Trotter has said he plans to remain in the race. He faces a felony gun charge after being stopped by security at O'Hare International Airport.

The primary for the special election is Feb. 26. The special election is April 9, the day other municipal elections will be held.

Most of the 2nd District is within Cook County, though a recent redistricting based on census numbers extended the political boundaries into rural areas.

Jackson easily won re-election last month even though he hadn't campaigned beyond a robocall or been seen publicly in months. He took medical leave in June for treatment of bipolar disorder. He was a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for part of his leave. His attorneys have said they are cooperating with federal authorities on an investigation. They have not given details on what it involves.

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Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index

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