Only in Chicago: Ex-Death Row Denizen Now Runs for Congress


One candidate appears not to live in the district she’s represented for more than a year and another is a former Death Row inmate with ties to past and present street gang members.

It would be an understatement to call the primary contest for the Chicago South Side’s 6th House District unusual. Then again, says the city’s Tribune, it embodies so much of the grand and unseemly tradition of Chicago politics, one that has long included gangs and patronage-backed political power.

The March 16 primary pits Aaron Patterson, who until a little more than a year ago lived on Death Row in an Illinois prison, against Patricia Bailey, a freshman legislator backed by the city’s pre-eminent political muscle.

It’s believed to be the first case in Illinois, and perhaps the nation, of a former Death Row inmate seeking elective office. For help in his uphill effort, Patterson has reached back to his roots as a leader of the Blackstone Rangers, one of the most violent street gangs in the city. He makes no secret that many of his campaign workers and volunteers are past and present gang members and ex-offenders.

“I got influence because I got history,” said Patterson, who insists his campaign is about more than just angry opposition to the death penalty. “You want those studs off the corner? Put them to work. That’s what I’m doing.”


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