Among the pastors who've endorsed her is Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit, which has had a strong South Side presence for decades. He has supported Jackson over the years but said the congressman has been hard to reach. He believes Halvorson understands the area's issues and after Obama's election, the race of a candidate isn't as important to voters.
"She's proven to be concerned about things that hurt our people. When I say 'our,' I mean community people that are not in the upper echelon, regular working people and poor people," Trotter said. "She has a heartbeat for building up single mothers."
In her church appearances, Halvorson talks about education, detailing how she earned bachelor's and master's degrees while raising teenagers as a single mom. She has since remarried. She also talks about how her mother raised her and her two brothers on $700 a month and how she often ate mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch.
Jacques Whatley, 38, is a single mother of two who is black and has voted for Jackson in the past. But she said the district could use new leadership and it doesn't matter to her that Halvorson is white.
She said education is most important to her, particularly overcrowded classrooms, and making more affordable housing options for people.
"I could go either way," she said.
Halvorson acknowledges the challenge but says she has faced tough odds before. In 1996, she defeated 18-year Republican state Sen. Aldo DeAngelis of Olympia Fields in a door-to-door campaign and eventually was appointed the first female majority leader of the state Senate.
"The only color that matters is green and that's money. We need someone who is going to bring it back," she said. "I think me being a white woman doesn't matter, they just want someone who's going to deliver."
Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen
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