Ald. Pat Dowell Announces Run For Rush’s Congressional Seat, Leaving Behind Secretary Of State Bid

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Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) on Wednesday became the first candidate to throw in her hat to succeed Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) in Congress since Rush announced he will not seek a 16th term representing Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs.

“Congressman Rush has created a legacy of fighting for others that I will strive to honor and uphold,” Dowell wrote in a news release Wednesday morning.

A former Chicago alderman and co-founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Rush will cap his Congressional career at 30 years so he can become a Baptist pastor, he announced in a news conference Tuesday.

Dowell’s announcement is a pivot from her run for Illinois Secretary of State, a months-long campaign that had already netted her formidable fundraising and political support. But after the Cook County Democratic Party endorsed Alexi Giannoulias for the statewide post, Dowell told reporters that she would have to reconsider her campaign.

RELATED: Cook County Dems throw support behind Giannoulias, snuffing bid for open primary

“I am grateful for the support people have given me in my run for Secretary of State,” Dowell wrote. “Recent events, both here in Illinois and across the country, have led me to decide to make this run for Congress.”

At the beginning of October, Dowell had more than $460,000 in her campaign account, according to quarterly reports made to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Since then, Dowell has amassed at least $90,800 in a steady stream of donations totaling at least $1,000 each, board of elections records show. Of Dowell’s most recent donations, the largest — $5,000 each — have come from Medstar Laboratory, City Club Gymnastics Academy, Vijay Prabhakar, Joseph & Leslie Antunovich and Natalia & Igor Sklyarova.

The next round of quarterly filings for candidates due Jan. 15 are expected to show the totality of donations Dowell took in during the final three months of 2021.

Dowell’s bid for the up-for-grabs seat puts her up against neighborhood organizer Jahmal Cole and the Rev. Christopher Butler, who announced runs for the seat last year.

A former deputy commissioner in the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, Dowell is now one of the most senior members of the City Council, with 15 years of experience as alderman of her Near South Side ward.

She was elected to the seat in 2007 after toppling her old boss, Ald. Dorothy Tillman, thanks in part to the support of labor unions whose leaders had soured on the incumbent. A year later Dowell unseated then-Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) as 3rd Ward Democratic Committeeman, a post she has held ever since.

Until April 2016, Dowell was the longest-tenured alderman without a committee chairmanship. That changed when Mayor Rahm Emanuel anointed her as chair of the Human Relations Committee. Dowell took another step up in 2019, when Mayor Lori Lightfoot picked her to replace Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) as chair of the powerful Committee on Budget and Government Operations.

Dowell has since presided over the past three rounds of annual budget hearings, a role that has earned her praise among her colleagues for her even-keeled approach to hours-long grill sessions of city bureaucrats.

Dowell is considered a close ally of Lightfoot, sometimes earning flak for carrying the mayor’s water during contentious budget fights. But she has also not hesitated to publicly criticize or even vote against aspects of the Lightfoot administration’s agenda when she disagrees with them — including last month, when she voted against a proposal (O2021-3243) to allow sports betting at Chicago’s stadiums and ballparks.

RELATED: Chicago one step closer to allowing sports betting at Chicago stadiums and ballparks

The 3rd Ward only partially overlaps the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Bronzeville deep into south-suburban Will County.

Dowell on Wednesday became the second member of the Chicago City Council to announce a run for the U.S. House of Representatives. In November, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) announced he would run in the new 3rd Congressional District spanning Chicago’s Northwest Side and west suburbs.

RELATED: Villegas announces run for new Northwest Side congressional district with Latino voting plurality

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January 5, 2022 at 02:05PM

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