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Political Spending In The Race to Replace Congressman Bobby Rush

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Early on, candidates began to separate themselves from the pack in the race to replace Congressman Bobby Rush. Many gained momenta due to fundraising ability, name recognition, or political experience. The top fundraiser in the race, Jonathan Swain, was able to secure only 3.3% of the votes. That is roughly 2,200 voters. How did this happen? How did Swain spend $388K and not raise his visibility with voters? A look at Swains' financial disclosure supplied insight into his campaigns' spending. Swains spent a whopping $85,389.70 with a media company called Gambit Strategies, LLC. This news is astonishing since barely 1,000 viewers saw these ads. The campaign spent no funds boosting social media posts. Both Dowell and Norrington-Reaves took advantage of the cheap and effective marketing tools of social media. Additionally, the Swain campaign spent $33K on direct mail. As a resident of the 1st congressional district, I did not receive his direct mail until Election Day and after I had already cast my vote. Overall, there was a complete lack of momentum in the Swain campaign. Promotion of the candidate-centered around Summerfest, formally known as Brew Fest, a local block party Swain hosts in the Hyde Park Neighborhood. Turnout for the 2022 fest was stellar, featuring entertainment by famous acts like DJ Jazzy Jeff, Busta Rhymes, Ashanti, Lupe fiasco, Jhene Aiko, Lucky Daye, Marsha Ambrosius, BJ the Chicago Kid, and more. I attended this event both days and watched as congressional candidate Jonathan Swain took the stage to tell potential voters why he was running and to ask the attendees to make sure they get out to vote. At no time did I hear Swain ask anyone in the audience to vote for him. Swain and his management did not secure any endorsements for the candidate. He also opted to skip the Chicago Pride Parade, which in Chicago is political suicide. Swain neglected to use his $388k war chest for television advertising, billboards, radio ads, or bench ads. Team Swain did not even bother to send out supporter emails with updates on the campaign. Rumor has it that this was deliberate and that Swain was never serious about winning. However, I believe sheer arrogance and poor management brought a halt to a train that never left the station. Karin Norrington-Reaves, an unknown endorsed by former Black Panther turned Congressman Bobby Rush, garnered 14.1% of the vote, winning her 3rd in the race. Despite being a little-known candidate, Norrington-Reaves obtained key endorsements and was the first to receive help from independent expenditures. Norrington-Reaves' disclosures were basic campaign expenses such as catering, event space rental, advertising, payroll, political strategist, fundraising, etc. There was nothing remarkable about her spending. Alderwoman Pat Dowell, in my opinion, ran the most seamless campaign. Her social media was flawless. She was knowledgeable about the issues facing the first district and had a plan to resolve them. Her street team was highly-visible and well trained to represent the candidate. Her staff was well organized and always prepared to advocate on her behalf. At every event, Dowell's canvassers would be out in uniforms distributing literature on the candidates' views and accomplishments. Dowell came in 2nd in fundraising and spent her funds very strategically. Kitty Kurth of the famous Kurth Lampe Worldwide Public Relations firm was advising the candidate. During a virtual forum, Dowell took a shot at the Jackson campaign for running the race on his famous father's coattails. She further said that if not for Jackson's famous father, no one would know he was in the race. Dowell has been the Alderwoman for the 3rd Ward for more than 15 years. It is my prediction that she will be back to run again. Dowell finished in 2nd place, winning 19.2% of the vote.

The Jonathan Jackson campaign was a vastly different story as far as spending. Jackson lagged in fundraising in the early months of the race. Jackson chose an ostentatious, inexperienced, blue-collar worker to manage his campaign free of charge. This decision would cause a ripple effect on the structure of his campaign. Jackson made headlines for not disclosing his Personal Financial Disclosure promptly. When asked by the Chicago-Tribune what happened? He placed the blame on "the people he is working with." Jackson was also one of the last candidates to make the ballot in the race. Mainly because one of "the people he was working with" filed an appearance on the candidate's behalf to represent him as legal counsel without a law license. Causing Jackson to be accused of fraud and again blamed his team. The Board Of Elections ultimately accepted Jackson's petitions despite this gaffe. As far as spending, Jackson's disclosure was like none other. Right off the back, I noticed over $1k in Uber expenses. He listed $5,379.33 on flight expenses. He spent over $1,500 on office supplies. Jackson shelled out $95K in direct mail to constituents. The first round of direct mail sent out by Jackson was full of errors. For example, His older brother Jesse Jackson, Jr., was named as his father in two places on the mailer. Not only was his brother listed as his father, but it was also misspelled. The mailer also states that Jackson was a current professor at Chicago State University when he had not taught there in over six years. My mailbox overflowed for weeks with Curtis Tarver and Jonathan Jackson's direct mail. Jackson's disclosure further showed an entry for $1,495 in equipment expenses and finally, FRIED CHICKEN! Jonathan Jackson spent $2,788.54 on food, Sharks Fish & Chicken $562.76, Dat Donut $246.36, Sam's Club $274.48, Menards $275.04, Jewel Osco $381.73, On North Kitchen $217.60, Neyows Creole Café Catering $448.84, Food and Paper Supply $381.73. Despite farcical spending, Jackson was victorious in the end. Jackson landed close to 1 million dollars in independent expenditures from a Crypto Currency company to run television ads on the candidate's behalf. Jackson secured 18,529 votes in the 2022 primary race, leaving 42,631 voters that did not vote for Jackson. I predict Jackson will be challenged in 2025 if he does not live up to the hype. His Republican opponent is not set in stone. Eric Carlson won the Republican nomination and is also a convicted felon. It is unclear if this disqualifies the candidate in November. Nevertheless, we will be watching. Please send your comments or corrections to

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