The Democratic primary for U.S. Senate is officially a three-way race.
State Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) is declaring his candidacy, joining U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates) and former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp on the March primary ballot.
He’s entering the race just days before campaign petitions can be filed, and many months after Zopp and Duckworth began raising millions of dollars in campaign funds. Harris believes he can overcome those odds, and dismisses talk that his candidacy will only amount to splitting the African-American vote with Zopp.
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“I don’t see it as being that,” Harris said. “I have a base. As you can see, I have a group of men who have a base who (are) supporting me, and I think it’s going to be important for the people to decide. I think that’s what makes the race, that’s what makes it the democratic process.”
In a statement, Zopp did mention the timing of Harris’ announcement, saying “"Although his entry into the Democratic primary is extremely late, I welcome State Senator Harris to this important conversation about the future of our state and country."
Among the backers of Harris’ bid are Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who says Harris’ business background and his name recognition as a former football star at Northwestern and in the NFL make him a good candidate. When asked if he really has a shot to win the nomination, Cullerton compared Harris’ path to the one taken by President Barack Obama.
“We’ve seen a young African-American State Senator run for the U.S. Senate, and he did OK, didn’t he?” Cullerton said.
Harris didn’t reveal much of his platform campaign at his announcement event, saying “I’m going to be a better U.S. Senator than Mark Kirk,” but declining to outline specifics.
“We’re going to save those for the campaign. You guys wouldn’t have anything to write about if I told you everything today,” Harris said.