Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart threw his support behind Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale on Thursday in the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a boost for Beale as he tries to emerge from a crowded field of candidates.
Dart, who has gained national attention for such moves as suing Craigslist over adult content, is the highest-profile public official in the Chicago area to endorse a candidate since Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced late last month she was backing state Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the Feb. 26 primary.
What makes endorsements from the likes of Dart and Preckwinkle potentially important is that the race is wide open, particularly since Democratic Party officials were unable to slate one of the nearly two dozen candidates who filed petitions to run. And Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez do not plan to endorse a candidate, according to their offices.
In Dart, Beale has a public figure popular enough to once have been considered Rahm Emanuel's most serious challenger in the mayoral race before the sheriff decided not to run. And Dart is also known as a savvy politician who, it was said before he declined to run for mayor, had the ability to put a couple hundred volunteers on the street to campaign whenever he wanted.
"As both a state legislator and Cook County sheriff I have worked with Anthony on a number of issues, most notably protecting our children and neighborhoods," Dart said in a statement. "He has proven himself to be a man of integrity and results."
The special general election is April 9.
Meanwhile, former state representative and one-time Preckwinkle aide Robin Kelly announced in a news release Thursday that a group of more than 100 ministers, the International Ministers & Community Alliance, is supporting her candidacy. For Kelly, the endorsement is significant; not only is the clergy a powerful political force, particularly in Chicago, but the endorsement follows what was a blow to Kelly's candidacy -- when Preckwinkle decided to endorse Hutchinson.
Jackson resigned in November, citing ongoing health problems and acknowledging that he was under federal investigation, reportedly for misusing campaign money.