As the field of would-be successors to Jesse Jackson Jr. grows to a dozen or more names, Democratic Party leaders in Chicago say a stampede of candidates could pose risks for the Democratic stronghold.

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CHICAGO — The jockeying to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. began before the ink was dry on the former congressman’s resignation letter.

Among those expressing an interest: Chicago aldermen, a former NFL linebacker, and a defense attorney who represented both R&B singer R. Kelly and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But as the field of would-be successors grows to a dozen or more names — one of whom may be another member of the Jackson family — Democratic Party leaders and political analysts say a stampede of candidates could pose risks for the Democratic stronghold. Spread the field of candidates too thin, they say, and it becomes easier for a more conservative candidate — or anyone else party leaders don’t want — to pull off a win.

The possibility so worried Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush, a close friend of the Jacksons, that within hours of the resignation Wednesday he had these words for anyone thinking of running: “Cool your jets.”

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“My fear is that there is going to be so many wannabes blinded by ambition … that we could find a tea-party (candidate winning),” he said at a news conference. “That would be a travesty.”

In his resignation letter, Jackson, 47, cited his continuing treatment for bipolar disorder and admitted “my share of mistakes.” He also confirmed publicly for the first time that he is the subject of a federal probe and is cooperating with investigators.

Federal authorities are reportedly investigating Jackson’s possible misuse of campaign funds.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is expected to schedule in the coming days a primary and general election.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said officials want to hold the elections on the same dates as previously scheduled elections for municipal officials, which are set for a Feb. 26 primary and an April 9 general election.

Orr said holding the 2nd Congressional District elections those same dates would save money.

The district, which stretches from Chicago’s south side to several southern suburbs and rural areas, is heavily Democratic. Earlier this month voters easily re-elected Jackson.

Among those thinking of running: longtime Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale, whose ward is in the district, and Alderman Will Burns, a former state representative.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson said she is weighing a bid. So is former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who represented another district in Congress for one term before losing re-election in 2010.

Chicago attorney Sam Adam Jr. also has said he’d be interested. Adam is a recognizable face and name, having represented Blagojevich in his first trial in 2010, when the former governor was convicted on one count and the jury deadlocked on the remaining counts.

Adam also was R. Kelly’s lawyer when the singer was acquitted on child-pornography charges.

Jackson’s wife, Sandi Jackson — who serves as an alderwoman representing a part of the district — and his brother, Jonathan Jackson, also have been mentioned, though neither has commented on a possible run.

Among the other possibilities are Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and state senator-elect Napoleon Harris, who played in the NFL and owns two pizza franchises.

His campaign aide, Curtis Thompson, told The Chicago Sun-Times that Harris was taking the holidays to think about it.

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