Napoleon Harris drops out of 2nd district race, debate held - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Napoleon Harris drops out of 2nd district race, debate held

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Issues of housing, jobs, public education and gun violence dominated a debate Wednesday night involving five candidates for the Democratic primary election in the 2nd Congressional District.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, of Crete; attorney Ernest B. Fenton, of Markham; Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th); state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) and Robin Kelly, of Matteson, a former state representative and top Cook County official, took part in the debate at Rich Central High School in south suburban Olympia Fields.

Earlier Wednesday, the crowded field of candidates was reduced to 16 when state Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) dropped out, endorsing Kelly.

The Feb. 26 primary is equivalent to election in the heavily Democratic district that stretches from Chicago's South Side through the south suburbs to Kankakee. The post is open because of the Nov. 21 resignation of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The five debate participants pledged to fight for district residents by pushing for mortgage relief to reduce foreclosures and to promote economic development to help lower homeowners' property tax bills.

A major topic was gun violence, and the killing this week of a 15-year-old girl in Chicago, who had attended President Obama's inauguration with her school band, was cited by the candidates in proposing stricter gun control.

As a mother, Hutchinson said she personally connected to the tragic shooting death because it reminded her of her daughter who's about the same age.

Halvorson is the only 2nd District Democratic candidate to publicly oppose a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity bullet magazines. She said the focus must be on who has access to guns rather than the guns themselves.

"I'm going to fight to make sure criminals don't get guns," she said.

Some candidates said they had personal experience with gun violence. Beale said he has attended too many funerals for gun victims in his ward. Kelly said she has spent more than 20 years working for gun control to make communities safe.

Fenton was a crowd favorite, emphasizing affordable housing and fighting foreclosures. Many in the audience repeatedly applauded his ideas and what he called "being real."

Beale boasted of doing more for "job creation than any other candidate up here. I brought many Wal-Mart jobs to my ward."

In a statement Wednesday, Harris, a first-term state senator, said he threw his support behind Kelly because of their similar philosophies.

"I believe we need to fight for more educational opportunity, better jobs and to get guns out of the hands of criminals and gangs that are preying on our neighborhoods," he said.

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