Jesse Jackson Jr. (pictured in 2011) | Charles Dharapak~AP
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:36PM
Will he stay or will he go?
That is entirely up to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., unless federal prosecutors force the issue. But if the congressman is planning to plead guilty to federal charges and resign, he should do so on or shortly before December 12.
Out of consideration for his constituents and the taxpayers.
Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown proposed this Dec. 12 deadline on Thursday, and today we’re putting the institutional weight of the Sun-Times editorial board behind the idea. Congressman Jackson’s future is one drama that needs not play out recklessly.
As Brown pointed out, if Jackson resigns by Dec. 12 — but not too many days before then — a special election to replace him could be scheduled to coincide with April 9 elections in suburban Cook, Will and Kankakee counties, along with a primary on Feb. 26. That would spare the counties from having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hold a special election in the 2nd Congressional District on a separate date. Cook County alone would save an estimated $350,000.
More to the point, as we have written before, the people of the 2nd District deserve a voice in Washington, especially during the difficult “fiscal cliff” talks of the next two months that could result in a historic grand bargain of major spending cuts and tax revenue hikes. If Jackson intends to step down, or if he requires more time away from Capitol Hill because his health remains fragile, he needs to step up and say so.
Early on, we argued that folks should give the congressman a little time and space to recover his strength, even as others dismissed his health problems as a cover for his legal problems. Jackson is under investigation for possible misuse of his campaign funds.
But, as Brown also noted, it’s tougher to give Jackson the benefit of a doubt when his inner circle waits until after the Nov. 6 election to drop the bombshell that he’s in plea discussions that could require him to resign. That’s a piece of information voters should have known before they went to the polls.