CHICAGO – Democratic leaders in Cook County hope to rally around a singular candidate to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., because the slate for the primary election is expected to be large.
Jackson, a Chicago Democrat, resigned last week after nearly 17 years in office. He cited his health and acknowledged that he’s under a federal investigation and cooperating with authorities.
The opening is rare in the mostly urban district that covers neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side, south suburbs and some rural areas.
Several candidates already have expressed interest, including former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson – whom Jackson beat in a primary this year – state Sen. Donne Trotter and defense attorney Sam Adam Jr., who once represented imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“You’ve got so many candidates who say they’re going to be running, it could be a free-for-all,” Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, chairman of the county’s Democratic Party told the Chicago Tribune. “We want to make sure we elect someone who works hard to represent everyone in Chicago, everyone in Cook County and everyone in the 2nd Congressional District.”
Berrios said he’s been in touch with local Democrats – including committeemen – to prepare for an endorsement session. Supporting one candidate, he said, would help ensure a win and help with fundraising.
Gov. Pat Quinn has until today to set dates for the special election, and has said he plans to set primary and general election dates.
Jackson, 47, easily won re-election to a ninth full term earlier this month. But he has been out of the public eye since June, when he went on a hushed medical leave. The former congressman was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for bipolar disorder and other medical issues.
In his resignation letter, he said his deteriorating health had made it difficult to do his job. He also revealed publicly for the first time that he is under federal investigation, reportedly for misusing campaign finance funds. He hasn’t been charged with a crime.
Jackson also had been under a House Ethics Committee investigation for links to Blagojevich.
The committee no longer has the power to punish Jackson, but they may issue a final report detailing any discussions Jackson was involved in about raising campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for being appointed to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has always maintained that he is innocent.
On Saturday, two Chicago congressmen and Jackson’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, held a prayer service for the younger Jackson.