Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Beset by Difficulties, But Election Day Isn’t One

Mark Guarino, Christian Science Monitor, November 2, 2012

When residents of the Second Congressional District in Illinois vote Tuesday, polls show, they are likely to choose a candidate who may continue to be absent from his post due to poor health or because he may soon be embroiled in a federal trial for fraud. Or both.

Both scenarios appear possible for US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the incumbent Democrat who has held his House seat for 17 years and is seeking reelection amid speculation that he may not be in a position to serve.

The US Constitution lets Congress decide whether a representative who can no longer serve should stay or go. No members of Mr. Jackson’s party have called for his ouster from the ticket, and so far none has suggested that he vacate his seat if elected. Democrats are eager to keep the House seat in the party, and Jackson’s name recognition has been a proven fundraiser, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

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Clouds first appeared over the younger Jackson through his connection with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year federal prison term for wrongdoing related to a pay-for-play scheme involving President Obama’s former US Senate seat. A House Ethics panel is investigating whether Jackson tried to bribe Mr. Blagojevich to get appointed to the seat, or at least tried to engage in the process through an emissary. Jackson denies the allegations.

News reports also say Jackson is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for improperly using campaign funds to decorate his Washington home. According to the Chicago Tribune, a Washington area furniture store operator has acknowledged cooperation with federal authorities, and authorities say an indictment is imminent.

Jackson is also reported to have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental-health problem, and he has not reported to work since early June. He currently resides at the Mayo Clinic in RochesterMinn., and his family has put its $2.5 million townhouse in Washington on the market. In late October, Jackson sent an 85-second robocall to constituents to ask for their patience, telling them that “a return to work on your behalf” is “against medical advice.”

Jackson’s reelection seems all but assured. According to an Oct. 21 poll by We Ask America, a polling operation in Springfield, Ill., 58 percent of likely voters in his district, which represents parts of Chicago and south suburban Cook and Will Counties, say they plan to vote for Jackson. That’s twice as many who say they will vote for his closest competitor, Republican Brian Woodworth, who received 27 percent. {snip}

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