By the time Debbie Halvorson arrived at her election party at , her defeat was clear to all, but you wouldn't know it by looking at her. A cheerful disposition and a positive attitude entered the bar with her on Tuesday night.
"All in all, we did what we could," Halvorson said. "I'm happy for congressman Jackson."
Despite losing, the former congresswoman was adamant in maintaining her faith in politics and content with her decision to run.
"I was never going to sit on the sidelines and allow Congressman Jackson to have another free ride—another walk in the park," Halvorson said. "He's never had an opponent since 1995, and we weren't going to allow that to happen."
As the unofficial results stand, Jesse Jackson Jr. secured more than two-thirds of the votes in the 2nd Congressional District. Given the unlikelihood of a Republican challenger, Jackson likely will win another term in Congress come November. He was first elected in 1996.
"Hopefully … (Jackson Jr.) is trying to reconnect with his voters," Halvorson said. "Hopefully, he will realize he needs to do that all the time.
"This wasn't the ending we anticipated," Halvorson continued. "We didn't have the money, we didn't have the party leaders, we didn't have the elected officials. This was a grassroots campaign. Losing does not mean you fail. Losing means that you have the ability to take a risk and do something right for the people."
Halvorson's campaign to unseat Jackson was widely watched. The congressman has been beset by an ethics probe in the House of Representatives, and his reputation was tarnished by his appearance in ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's criminal trial. He was also dogged by revelations he'd strayed from his wife.
At one point, Halvorson used Jackson's votes against Barack Obama's agenda against him on the campaign trail. Jackson, in turn, portrayed himself as one of the first politicians to bring a young Obama to the attention of the South Side and south suburbs.
Tuesday night, Halvorson said she challenged Jackson because he didn't deserve a "free ride" back into Congress. A few weeks ago in the campaign, a pastor and Jackson supporter said Halvorson was .
Still, Jackson's support in the city of Chicago was difficult for Halvorson to overcome. Will County voters clearly backed Halvorson, who lives in rural Crete, according to unofficial returns.
Halvorson pulled in 2,686 votes in Will County to Jackson's 1,709, and in Kankakee County, Halvorson brought in 2,395 to Jackson's 1,182. Will County and Kankakee-area officials have never taken kindly to Jackson's advocacy for a south suburban airport.
In Cook County, Jackson pulled in 31,847 votes to Halvorson's 11,049. In the city of Chicago, Jackson posted 19,700 to Halvorson's 5,721.
At his victory party, where his wife planted a huge kiss on him at the podium, Jackson said he plans to continue to push for the south suburban airport — saying it will generate thousands of jobs and economic opportunity — and hopes to bring other politicians together to make it happen.
An airport brings hotels, jobs and taxis to a region, he said.
"I would love to someday be able to hail a cab on the South Side," Jackson said.
Tonight, Halvorson's campaign comes to an end. Tomorrow, she said, she plans to clean her house.