Jesse Jackson Jr. Wins House Seat Primary : Election: Son of the civil rights leader is top Democratic vote-getter in Chicago district. He’s favored to replace former Rep. Mel Reynolds.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Jesse Jackson Jr. rode his famous name to a Democratic primary victory Tuesday, becoming the odds-on favorite for the congressional seat Mel Reynolds resigned after he was convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker.

Jackson, the 30-year-old son of the civil rights leader, was successful not only in Chicago’s southern suburbs but also on the home ground of city ward leaders, remnants of the Democratic organization his father fought for years.

“The machine seems like it’s out of gas,” said the Rev. James Meeks, Jackson’s pastor.

With 93% of the precincts reporting, unofficial returns showed Jackson with 26,994 votes, or 48%, and state Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones Jr. with 21,680 votes, or 39%.


The Rev. Jesse Jackson later declared, “It’s our family hour!” and the candidate’s sister, Santita, sang a soulful song at the victory party.

Jones met with subdued supporters at his primary night headquarters and said his totals did not look favorable.

State Sen. Alice Palmer had 5,960 votes, or 11%; state Rep. Monique Davis had 1,331 votes, or 2%; and businessman John Morrow received 243, less than 1%.

The 2nd Congressional District on Chicago’s South Side and nearby suburbs is overwhelmingly Democratic, and the primary winner will be a heavy favorite in the Dec. 12 special election.

Republican Thomas J. Somer captured his party’s nomination, grabbing 83% of the vote in a four-person field.

Constituents in the 2nd District endured 12 years of Rep. Gus Savage’s chronic absenteeism, anti-Semitic remarks and embarrassing personal incidents before they replaced him in 1992 with Reynolds, a Rhodes scholar who promised to do better. On Sept. 28, Reynolds was sentenced to five years in prison for sexual misconduct with an underage campaign volunteer.

Jackson’s father is a well-known and popular figure in the district, where blacks outnumber whites by more than 2 to 1. But Jones, 60, said the man known to his friends as “Junior” was merely riding on his father’s fame.

“He has a major name with no substance--I have substance,” said Jones.

Jackson accused Jones of focusing too much on the city and lacking a suburban perspective.

Jackson was embarrassed two weeks before the election by the disclosure that his salary as field director for his father’s Rainbow Coalition had been subsidized by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, which was accused by a Senate investigating committee of having ties to organized crime. Jackson said he knew nothing about that.