Jesse Jackson Jr. leaves future uncertain

By Editorial Board

Early voting in Illinois began Oct. 22, which means U.S. House Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) has secured a spot on the ballot regardless of whether he will be able to perform his duties if re-elected.

Jackson was on medical leave this summer and received treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. On July 28, about 7 weeks into his leave, his staff finally released a statement detailing his whereabouts and condition.

His office is maintaining the same level of secrecy and misdirection about the representative’s well-being while Jackson heads back to the Mayo Clinic, possibly for another extended stay, according to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st). His campaign hasn’t released a statement about his return, except for a 90-second automated message to his south suburban constituents that stated Jackson is “anxious to return to work.”

Of course, Jackson should be given the time and space he needs to recover, but he should have done so by resigning and removing himself from the ballot. With no set date for his return, how are voters supposed to trust that the politician they are voting for will be able to represent them in Washington?

Gov. Pat Quinn supported Jackson Oct. 17, saying there is no need for him to resign. Reps. Danny Davis (D-7th) and Rush also defended Jackson’s decision to stay in the race at an Oct. 22 press conference. While it is nice to see the congressman’s colleagues publicly support his recovery, the defense of his absentee campaign is a bit much.

Jackson’s mental health isn’t the only obstacle he faces. He is also under investigation by federal prosecutors for allegedly misusing campaign funds. An anonymous source told the Chicago Tribune Oct. 17 that the investigation has been ongoing for months and could end in an indictment before Election Day. With investigators and journalists watching his every move, is Washington really the best environment for Jackson’s recovery? Mental illness is serious, and Jackson needs support now more than ever. But the 2nd Congressional District still needs a reliable representative.

During his brief return to Washington this month, Jackson was allegedly spotted drinking at local bars, according to an Oct. 15 Gawker article. Whether or not this is true, Chicago media outlets have picked up the story, including NBC Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times. Jackson said he was “not well” in an interview with The Daily, his only interview before returning to the Mayo Clinic Oct. 23. He has given voters little reason to believe he will be able to work when Congress is back in session next year.

Most troubling is that Jackson has not set a return date. He is not allowed to return to work until his doctors say he has recovered enough to handle his job. That could be weeks or even years. There’s no shame in resigning because of health problems. Jackson should have given up his spot on the ballot so voters in the 2nd district can elect someone able to represent them.

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