Admitting 'mistakes,' Reynolds bids for Jackson's congressional seat

November 28, 2012

AP/M. Spencer Green
Mel Reynolds announced his candidacy to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in a special election on Nov. 28.

Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds announced Wednesday he’s running again for the seat resigned by Jesse Jackson Jr., despite separate convictions for sexual misconduct and bank fraud that ended his earlier congressional career.

Standing before a red a white campaign sign that read “Redemption,” Reynolds told reporters that he had made “mistakes” in the past, but still has a drive for public service.

“When you go through things in life, sometimes you have to stand up, get on your feet again and go forward,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds, a former Rhodes Scholar, was once a rising Democratic star when he was first elected to the 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs, in 1992. He was re-elected two years later, despite being under indictment for having an alleged sexual relationship with a teenaged campaign volunteer.

Reynolds resigned his seat in October 1995, after a Cook County jury found him guilty of sexual abuse, child pornography and lying to investigators. He was still in prison in 1997 when he was charged and convicted of bank and campaign finance fraud. Reynolds was ordered to spend more than six years in prison for those crimes, though President Bill Clinton later commuted the sentence.

Though Reynolds repeatedly referred to his past “mistakes” on Wednesday, he didn’t say whether he was guilty of the crimes that sent him to prison, despite earlier pronouncements of his innocence.

“I’ve made the statement that I’m going to make regarding 20 years ago,” he said. “I made mistakes, and that’s it. I’m not gonna be – I’m not gonna allow anyone to just stick me in the ground and keep asking the same questions over and over and over again. That’s my response.”

The field of candidates who are running – or publicly considering a run – for Jackson’s old seat seems to grow by the day. Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson made her bid official over the weekend, Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he’s filed paperwork to run, and Pastor Anthony Williams has declared his candidacy. The long list of other Illinois pols who are pondering their own bids includes other Chicago aldermen, state lawmakers and Democratic insiders.

The next Congressman to represent the heavily Democratic, majority African-American 2nd Congressional District will likely be picked in the Feb. 26 special primary election.

Governor Pat Quinn has tentatively set the special general election date for March 19th, though he’s urging state lawmakers to make an exception to state law and push it back to April 9th, when election officials can save money by putting the congressional seat on the ballot along with other municipal offices.