CHICAGO (MCT) — Alderman Sandi Jackson indicated Wednesday that voters might not see or hear from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. before the Nov. 6 election, but said he would remain on the ballot with “no last-minute switcheroos.”
The veteran congressman has been on medical leave from Congress for nearly four months as seeks treatment for bipolar disorder. His wife, Chicago’s 7th Ward alderman, said that he is recuperating at the family’s Washington, D.C., home and seeing doctors two to three times a week. But Alderman Jackson could not say when Jackson would return to public life.
“I believe at some point in time he will come back. I don’t know whether that will be before the election or after the election,” she said.
Asked whether voters deserved to hear from the congressman before the election, Sandi Jackson said she “hopes he will be able to do that.
“Again, I know that he is anxious to do so, but he is also under doctor’s orders to stay very calm, very quiet, and he is going to do that. So we, right now, are going to continue to wait on the doctors to give us direction on how he should proceed,” said Alderman Jackson, speaking to reporters for the first time since she called the media “jackals” at a birthday fundraiser last week.
The Jackson campaign declined Wednesday to specify what treatment the congressman is receiving, where it’s taking place or what risks his doctors say he faces if he publicly campaigns.
The lack of answers has been the case throughout the summer and into the fall as speculation and misdirection have filled the void in the absentee congressman’s campaign.
Early last month, a top Jackson aide said he was “hopeful” Jackson would return to work when Congress resumed Sept. 10. He did not. The Jacksons also put their Washington, D.C., home on the market to help pay for the congressman’s mental health treatment. That created further questions about his future before the Jacksons pulled the public sale listing and are now offering it for private appointments.
Jackson, 47, faces two opponents in the general election: Republican Brian Woodworth, an adjunct faculty member at Olivet Nazarene University, and independent Marcus Lewis, a mail handler for the U.S. Postal Service.
But in a newly drawn congressional district that voted more than 80 percent for homestate President Barack Obama’s election four years ago, Jackson remains the heavy favorite for re-election against his lesser-known and lesser-funded opponents, even as voters haven’t heard from him.
On Wednesday, Alderman Jackson appeared to close the door on the notion Rep. Jackson would drop out before the Nov. 6 election.
“He is on the ballot and he’s going to stay on the ballot. And I’m looking forward to him coming back to work after his re-election,” she said outside City Council chambers. “No last-minute switcheroos. He would never do that and I would never want that for him. I strongly believe in the Democratic process.”
Under election law, Democratic Party leaders have until Oct. 22 — 15 days before the election — to pick a replacement candidate should Jackson opt to remove his name from consideration. After that date, however, Jackson’s name would appear on the ballot. Should he decide he’s unable to serve, a special election would have to be held several months down the road.
Scott Pyles, the Will County Democratic chairman, noted that the new 2nd District includes some of the county’s top precincts for Democratic turnout. Operating an Obama-on-down-the-ballot campaign program that also will benefit the congressman, Pyles said, “No issues have been raised with me by my committeemen and organizations in that part of the district about Congressman Jackson.”
Joseph Berrios, the Cook County assessor who also is the county’s Democratic chairman, said he never doubted Jackson would remain on the ballot.
“I told everyone from Day One that I was not taking calls” about potential successors to Jackson on the ballot, Berrios said. “We were not going to start that political discussion.”
One Jackson adviser, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the congressman’s campaign, said residents in- the-know about politics, particularly the role seniority plays in the House and the importance of committee assignments, are supportive of his re-election.
“There’s not an overriding group of people who understand and know about politics who are telling him to get out,” said the adviser, adding that doctors were still “tweaking” the congressman’s medication.
“The pressure is coming from where he always gets pressure from,” the adviser said of Jackson’s frequent critics. “But the solid religious leaders are saying, ‘Take your time.’ They understand what his seniority (in the House) means. They know the difference it makes for him to be on the (House) appropriations committee.”
Even Sandi Jackson noted that if Democrats can regain control of the House from Republicans next month, her husband “would be in line to be a major appropriator.” Jackson is Illinois’ lone representative on the powerful appropriations panel.
Woodworth, Jackson’s Republican opponent, said Alderman Jackson’s focus on her husband’s ability to “bring home the bacon” on the Appropriations Committee shows how misguided Jackson and other Democrats have been about spending in Washington. “It fits right into that Chicago political mindset of looking for favoritism rather than treating everyone the same,” Woodworth said.
Also Wednesday, Sandi Jackson spoke for the first time about the sale of the family’s Victorian-style town house, which was briefly listed at $2.5 million last month before the public listing was pulled.
“We’ve got folks who were coming up to the house without representation,” she said. “They were scaring my children because they were coming without, I think, any desire to buy, but really just to come look-see.”
But the Jacksons will continue trying to sell the home privately, she said, because her husband’s congressional “Cadillac” healthcare plan isn’t as comprehensive as some might think when it comes to paying for the kind of mental health treatment the lawmaker is receiving.
“I think most Americans will say when it comes to mental health, those medical plans do not cover it,” Alderman Jackson said.