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Off to the races: Replacing Jackson

Stu Rothenberg notes that Democrats will have a tough time winning back the House in 2014: “Going back to the election of 1862, the only time the president’s party gained as many as 10 seats was, well, never. Even in 1934, the best showing by the president’s party in House elections since the Civil War, the president’s party gained only nine seats. In 1998, Democrats gained a handful of seats during Bill Clinton’s second midterm (five), and Republicans gained a somewhat larger handful during George W. Bush’s first midterm (eight). But in each case, unusual circumstances — post-impeachment fallout in 1996 and political fallout from the attacks of 9/11 (plus redistricting) in 2002 — help account for the atypical results.”

ILLINOIS: Polls close at 8:00 pm ET in the race to replace disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. The front-runner is Robin Kelly, the Cook County administrative officer. Also expected to be in contention: former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who has been the subject of a more than $2 million campaign against her run by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PAC because of her ties to the NRA; and Alderman Anthony Beale.

The Chicago Tribune: “Today's voting follows weeks of candidate forums, an accelerated campaign schedule and a flurry of TV ads from the mayor of New York. While the top-tier candidates among the 14 Democrats vying for the primary nomination are known — former state Rep. Robin Kelly, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson and Chicago 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale — there also are some big unknowns. Voter turnout, already anticipated to be very low, could be exacerbated by nasty weather.”

The Chicago Sun-Times: “Candidates vying to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. crisscrossed the vast, diverse South Side and south suburban 2nd Congressional District Monday, giving last-minute pitches to turn voters their way. Low voter turnout is already expected in the special election, but a forecast of snow for Tuesday had candidates working even harder to persuade their supporters go to the polls.”

“Guns and ethics were on the minds of voters, and both were main issues on the campaign trail, particularly as Jackson’s legal saga played out in federal court,” AP writes.

Here’s Politico’s guide to the race.

And Jessica Taylor warns that the gun issue might not have staying power outside of this race.

MASSACHUSETTS: “US Representatives Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch have agreed to debate each other six times in their battle for the Democratic nomination for the special election to fill former US Senator John F. Kerry’s seat,” the Boston Globe writes.

VIRGINIA: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is the most obvious third choice in the Virginia governor’s race, but Politico notes, “Business leaders have also approached moderate former Rep. Tom Davis to gauge his interest in the race. The former Fairfax congressman has rebuffed their entreaties so far, at least in part because his wife is currently running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

But hope persists that Davis might be drawn into the race if former state legislator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis fails to win her party’s nomination at a May convention.”