A political rookie who was a top aide to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Monday that she intends to run for the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.
Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson’s entry into the race makes her the best-known black candidate to seek the seat that has been held by three of the nation’s four black senators in modern times. The Senate’s only black member — Roland Burris — currently holds it. He is not seeking a full term because of fundraising troubles.
Jackson issued a statement about her intention to run and plans to formally announce her candidacy next month. She said she plans to take a leave of absence from her job to mount a campaign.
Although this will be her first run for elected office, Jackson already has political baggage because of her Blagojevich ties. She worked as his spokeswoman during his first term, when federal prosecutors were investigating his administration’s hiring practices.
“Those were not my decisions,” said Jackson, who left the administration to join the Chicago Urban League in October 2006.
Jackson, 44, said she feels a duty to serve and would bring to Washington her experience at creating economic opportunities that has been at the heart of her work with the civil rights organization she leads.
Jackson will face Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois’ treasurer, in the Democratic primary in February. The Giannoulias campaign declined to comment on Jackson’s announcement.
The race also has attracted Republicans, including Rep. Mark Kirk, a five-term congressman from Chicago’s north suburbs; retired Judge Don Lowery; entrepreneur Eric Wallace; and former Harvey Alderman John Arrington. Wallace and Arrington are also black.
Burris was crippled politically when he accepted the appointment to the Senate seat from Blagojevich in December after the then-governor was arrested on federal corruption charges. Blagojevich was later impeached and removed from office in January by lawmakers.
DEANNA BELLANDI, AP