U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is widely expected to cruise to victory on Election Night, but the Democratic congressman from Chicago’s South Side will not be in town and his camp is not having a party.
Jackson, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 1995, has been on medical leave since June. He’s suffering from bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. On Monday, the Mayo Clinic confirmed that Jackson is currently a patient.
Amid his health woes, Jackson has also been under a cloud of investigation going on four years. Jackson is the subject of a U.S. House ethics investigation relating to accusations that he orchestrated a pay-to-play scheme aimed at getting a U.S. Senate seat appointment from imprisoned ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Recent reports have come out saying that the feds are also inspecting his campaign spending.
Jackson hasn’t been charged criminally and has denied wrongdoing. He was once considered a rising star in the Democratic party and a possible Chicago mayoral contender.
The congressman has not made any public appearances since his leave of absence. In October, he put a robocall out to his constituents. “I’m anxious to return to work on your behalf,” Jackson said. “But at this time, it’s against medical advice. And while I will always give my all to my constituents, I will ask you to continue with your patience as I ask to get my health back.”
Jackson’s absence and silence, along with the federal investigation, leaves many to speculate that he will resign. Others question Jackson and his family’s handling of the illness.
In September a political analyst and Chicago Sun-Times columnist wrote this about Jackson:
“Your silence leaves little room for empathy. Some are calling on you to speak out, to help encourage others who suffer in the shame of mental illness. Others claim that you are just hiding from the feds. I don’t buy that noise. Your job belongs to the voters. Not to the Democratic Party bosses readying their smoke-filled rooms. Not your would-be successors who are writing your political obituary. Not to family members looking for a shortcut to high political office.”
Last month congressional colleagues Danny Davis and Bobby Rush visited Jackson in his Washington, D.C. home. Davis defended Jackson and recounted the visit to WBEZ: “I remember a fella named Job who got sick during the Biblical days. And Job’s friends went to see him because they thought that he must have done something that was terrible to have this illness heaped upon him. Turned out that Job had not done anything!”
In the March primary, Jackson handily beat former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson in the changed district. The 2nd Congressional District boundaries were redrawn and now extend through the south suburbs and past Kankakee.
On Tuesday, Jackson faces political unknowns Republican Brian Woodworth and independent Marcus Lewis.
Jackson voted absentee by mail.