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Manzullo ousted by Illinois GOP foe after 10 terms in Congress; Jackson Jr. survives primary
CHICAGO (AP) ' U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, a 10-term Illinois Republican, lost a heated primary battle on Tuesday, as U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson easily won the Democratic nomination and an Iraq war veteran was chosen to face a tea party firebrand in November.
Manzullo and Jackson faced the toughest primary battles of their careers, and a new congressional map, which dramatically reshaped partisan territory in Illinois, added to the intensity.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Jackson had 71 percent of the votes, while his challenger, former one-term U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, had around 29 percent. Halvorson called Jackson to concede after the intense primary season which featured numerous attack ads on both sides.
"I had to take it very seriously," Jackson told The Associated Press Tuesday night. "I never take an opponent lightly. She put up a very, very strong challenge."
But Manzullo said he wouldn't concede to freshmen U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger until all the votes were counted. With 87 percent of precincts reporting, Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot, had 56 percent compared with about 44 percent for Manzullo.
Meanwhile, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth won a primary contest over former Illinois deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi in Chicago's suburbs and will run against outspoken Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh in November.
Voters also determined the fall match-up for the state's only open congressional seat, which is being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, the longest-serving Democrat in the state's U.S. House delegation. Republican lumber businessman Jason Plummer and Democratic former regional schools superintendent Brad Harriman will be on the ballot.
Democrats say they could gain as many as five new seats in Illinois come November, pushing them closer to regaining the U.S. House. But Republicans say they're poised to pick up a seat in the southern half of the state and can successfully defend challenges to the five GOP congressmen who won in 2010 during a Republican surge in Illinois.
Republicans will lose at least one congressman because the state lost a congressional seat in the remap ' from 19 to 18 ' and the incumbent matchup in north-central Illinois.
Manzullo and Kinzinger, who received an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2010 and was among the five GOP freshmen elected two years ago, were locked in an intense primary due to redistricting.
Kinzinger's old district was split in the remap, which was handled by Democrats and carved out territory in their favor. He decided to run against Manzullo, who is currently serving in the 16th Congressional District. The district is one of Illinois' most conservative pockets, curving from the Wisconsin border to the Indiana line and including farms, far flung Chicago suburbs and manufacturing communities.
No Democrats ran in the Tuesday primary, so Kinzinger will almost certainly head back to Washington.
The primary for Jackson, who first took office in 1995, was the most intense of his career. The son of the civil rights activist mounted an aggressive primary fight with Halvorson as she has made questions about his ethics central to her campaign. While he has denied any wrongdoing, the House Ethics Committee is investigating Jackson's ties to imprisoned ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
However, the issue appeared to resonate little with voters who cited his long experience in the district which extends from neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side, its south suburbs and beyond.
"Jesse Jackson Jr. has been in my community for a long time and I support him," said Oscar Dixon, 63, of Chicago. "He's like a family member... He really delivers for me."
Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in 2004, focused her victory on Walsh. The tea party candidate has been in the spotlight for criticizing President Barack Obama. Duckworth called him an extreme voice for the district which is one of the most diverse on the congressional map and spans several northwest Chicago suburbs.
"I spent my entire adult life in service to this nation and I would be honored to continue that service as a member of Congress," she told supporters at her suburban victory party.
Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen