Karin Norington-Reaves jumps in Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Bobby Rush

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Karin Norington-Reaves on Sunday kicking off virtually her congressional bid to replace Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who will retire next year after 30 years in the House.
Karin Norington-Reaves on Sunday kicking off virtually her congressional bid to replace Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who will retire next year after 30 years in the House.

Norington-Reaves joins a 1st congressional district Democratic primary field likely to grow in the wake of Rush’s announcement he will not seek a 16th term.

WASHINGTON — Karin Norington-Reaves, the CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, jumped Sunday into the Democratic primary to replace Rep. Bobby Rush, saying she was the “right person” to fill his shoes.

Kicking off her campaign virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic surge, Norington-Reaves, 52, a Chatham resident, said, “Every single moment of my life, every single moment of my career has prepared me for this moment in time.”

Norington-Reaves joins a 1st Congressional District Democratic primary field likely to grow in the wake of Rush’s announcement last week that he will not seek a 16th term in Congress.

Following Rush saying he will end his House career next January after 30 years, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) vaulted from long-shot to front-runner when she quit her secretary of state Democratic primary bid on Wednesday and switched to the House race.

On Sunday, Dowell’s campaign said in just a few days she has been able to raise $150,000 under federal rules for her House bid.

The new 1st Congressional District — redrawn in the wake of the 2020 census — has most of its voting age population packed in parts of the city’s South Side and southern Cook County suburbs. It is a district drawn under the Civil Rights Act designed to maximize the potential of electing a Black member of Congress.

Geographically the new 1st is vast as it heads south and west past Cook County, sweeping in exurbs, rural and smaller town turf.

Norington-Reaves, recognizing this, said she would run a campaign from “Bourbonnais to Bronzeville, from Mount Greenwood to Elwood, from Chatham to Channahon.”

Norington-Reaves got a bit of a head start to organize her bid because, she acknowledged when we talked Sunday, she knew in advance Rush would not be running again.

Rush on Tuesday said he would be endorsing in the coming weeks and, in my analysis, there are signs pointing to Norington-Reaves getting his nod. She worked with Rush in bringing to his district the Chatham Education and Workforce Center.

In the heavily Democratic district, winning the June primary is tantamount to clinching the seat.

Norington-Reaves ran for 6th Ward alderperson in 2007, coming in third. Norington-Reaves is taking a leave as the founding CEO of the city-county jobs agency to campaign full time.

The agency, which administers federal employment and training funds, was created in 2012 by then Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the wake of problems at now-defunct other workforce creation agencies.

Raised on the North Side, she attended Shoesmith, Brennemann and Walt Disney Magnet elementary schools. Norington-Reaves graduated Lincoln Park High School in 1987. She picked up her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in 1991 and a law degree in 1996 from Southern Methodist University.

Norington-Reaves was the deputy director, Office of Urban Assistance at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. She was chief of staff for Ald. Willie Cochran (20th); director of School and Corporate Relations at Innovations for Learning; a teacher in California and executive in Chicago for Teach for America; a lobbyist and lawyer for the Citizens Utility Board; a trial attorney for Justice Department civil division and a staff attorney for the Maryland Attorney General.

Norington-Reaves is fluent in Spanish, proficient in Italian and Portuguese and speaks some Creole — the first language of her adopted Haiti-native special needs daughter, born without eyes.

Divorced, her son, Alex, 17 and daughter, Rachelle, 9, attend Chicago Public Schools.

Petitions for the June 28 Illinois primary can start to be passed on Thursday. Only 400 valid signatures are needed to get on the ballot.

Rarely open seats draw a crowd even if some rivals end up withdrawing before the election.

In 2013, after now ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned under an ethics cloud – he would go on to serve a prison term – 18 Democrats ran to replace him.

In 2009, there were 13 Democrats in the primary race to take the place of then Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who quit to be President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Pastor Butler in race: Rare anti-abortion Democrat

Pastor Chris Butler, the very rare Democrat who is anti-abortion, was in the primary before Rush said he would not run again. Butler, the lead minister at Chicago’s Embassy Church in Hyde Park, spoke at Saturday’s March for Life rally in the Loop.

Butler, 37, attended the Oscar DePriest Elementary School, Michele Clark Middle School and Whitney Young High School. His undergraduate degree is from Northeastern Illinois University.

The 1st District has a storied history of electing African-Americans to the House. DePriest was the first Black member of Congress elected in the 20th century — after a 28-year drought — and the first Black member from the North.

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January 9, 2022 at 09:09PM

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