Election 2012: Jackson Jr. Resigns Amid Controversy

By Tyler Carter
The Red Line Project

Posted: Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from his position as the representative for Illinois 2nd Congressional District on Wednesday, only two weeks after being re-elected to serve Chicago’s South suburban county.

“For [17] years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy, and life to public service,” Jackson said in his resignation letter to U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner. “However, over the past several months as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish.

"Against the recommendations of my doctors, I had hoped and tried to return to Washington and continue working on the issues that matter most to the people of the 2nd District. I know now that will not be possible.”

His resignation ends a 17-year political career as part of one of Chicago's most high-profile political families. His father, Jesse Jackson, reportedly sobbed when learning of his son's resignation on Wednesday.

Jackson was re-elected to serve the constituents of Illinois 2nd District on Oct. 6. Jackson out voted his fellow opponents, Brian Woodworth and Marcus Lewis by 63 percent, allotting him to serve a 10th term as representative after months of little to no election campaigning.

Jackson’s re-election did not come to a surprise to many even with the concerns involving his health issues. The former congressman checked into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in June for type II bipolar disorder. With not being present in his Rayburn House building office in Washington for several months, Jackson re-checked himself into the clinic for re-evaluation days before the general election.

In his letter to Boehner, Jackson's health was one of the main things he cited for his resignation.

Jackson Jr. Photo“The constituents of the Second District deserve a full-time legislator in Washington, something I cannot be for the foreseeable future,” Jackson said. Therefore, it is with great regret that I hereby resign as a member of the United States House of Representatives effective today, in order to focus on restoring my health.”

Many of the citizens of the South suburban community have mixed emotions on Jackson resignation. Some community members say they have deep sympathy for Jackson.

“I think he’s sick,” Delphine Brooks, a Chicago Public Services school nurse told the Sun-Times. “He doesn’t look well. For him not to appear like he’s been doing.”

Others said they thought this was an act of “typical” politics in Chicago.

“He won re-election so he’d have more bargaining power, more leverage … It’s the way it’s always been done in Chicago politics,” Leroy Ricks, owner of a bike repair shop located on 71st Street, told the Sun-Times. “Ain’t nothing fair about it. It’s not a question of fair, that don’t even factor into it."

Two of Jackson’s closest colleagues, Rep. Bobby Rush (1st District) and Rep. Danny Davis (7th District), said at a press conference that no one was “duped” into believing that Jackson would be back to serve in congress.

Recalling an evening the two congressman spent in Jackson's Washington home during his time away from the public spotlight, the Davis told of how genuinely enthused Jackson was to return to congress.

“I don’t believe that you could convoy the genuine feelings that I saw coming from him as he talked about his hopes, his aspirations, what he had hoped to accomplish when he ran for congress,” Davis said.

In the midst of his health issues, a federal investigation into “suspicious activity” concerning Jackson’s finances related to his House seat and the possibility of inappropriate expenditures was reported in October by the Chicago Sun-Times.

In his resignation letter Jackson addressed the federal investigation stating that he is aware of the probe and is doing his best to address the situation responsibly and is cooperating with the investigators for these are his mistakes and solely his mistakes alone.

With there now being a vacant sent in the House, Illinois is required to hold a special election to replace Jackson. The same special election that elected Jackson into office when Mel Reynolds resigned for criminal charges being brought against him in 1995.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said that he would like to see a special election held on April 9, with a primary being held on Feb 26. Orr told Chicago media that he believes that this would be the best time to hold the election being that the suburban Cook county area has an election scheduled these dates.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has until Monday to schedule the election. By law, the election is ordered to be held within 115 days of Jackson’s resignation. The election will be held no later than March 16.

Brian Woodworth, Jackson’s former election opponent said that it will cost Chicago tax pays roughly $1 million to hold a special election, though ABC News cited sources within the Illinois Board of Elections who estimate that it could climb much higher. Orr's office estimated it will be more than $1 million.

With Jackson knowing that there being a high probability of him stepping down from his seat, Woodworth contended that the real issue is why didn’t he step down before the election.

Jackson’s resignation has opened the doors for possible successors. The list of names range from Kurt Summers, chief of staff to Cook County Board Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle, to Sam Adams Jr., Rod Blagojevich's former attorney.

But for Jackson, questions remain as to whether he can make a plea bargain to possible jail time.

“I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right,” Jackson said. “It has been a profound honor to serve the constituents of Illinois [2nd] Congressional District and I thank them for their patience, words of support and prayers during what has been, and what will continue to be a very trying time for me and my family.”

Video vault: Brian Woodworth talks about Jackson Jr.'s campaign and a potential special election prior to Jackson's resignation:

Return to Election 2012Home page

Feedback: Contact the reporter via Twitter, leave a comment below, submit a story idea or report an error.