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Mel Reynolds announces congressional run, admits ‘mistakes’

Former Congressman Mel Reynolds announces his candidacy for 2nd Congressional District replace Jesse JacksJr. Wednesday Nov. 28 2012. | John

Former Congressman Mel Reynolds announces his candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 30, 2012 3:44PM

Mel Reynolds, an ex-con convicted of bank fraud and having sex with a 16-year-old girl when he was in his 40s, wants to replace the embattled Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.

Standing in front of signs that read “Redemption” Reynolds held a news conference on Wednesday saying he would run in a special election after Jackson resigned in disgrace last week in the midst of a federal investigation.

It was Reynolds who Jackson replaced 17 years ago —in a special election — after Reynolds himself resigned in disgrace after his conviction.

“It’s what you do after the mistakes,” Reynolds said, adding that his crimes were “almost 18, 20 years ago,” and shouldn’t be a life sentence. “I want to serve.”

One reporter asked whether he feared that some people believed his candidacy was merely a joke.

Another asked how he responded to people who said he had no shame.

“I say to those people that I’m not perfect. If you’re perfect, I’m not appealing. I’m appealing to people who want to take a fair look at all of my history, all of my work, all of my education. What I’ve done since those times … and make a fair judgment,” said Reynolds, a onetime Rhodes scholar.

Reynolds held the 2nd Congressional District seat from 1993 to 1995. He was then convicted of having sex with an under-aged campaign worker. While he was in jail for that conviction, the feds hit him with campaign finance charges, for improperly using his campaign fund. In 2001, former President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence to time served.

At the news appearance, Reynolds stopped short of admitting guilt for his crimes and then bristled as reporters pressed him on his criminal past, saying that was behind him.

Reynolds said he owns his own consulting firm, lives in Dolton and is renting.

He at one point made reference to the fact that state Rep. Derrick Smith won re-election even after indictment, however, he said that didn’t inspire his candidacy.

“It had no bearing on my decision,” he said.

So far, Reynolds has not filed any paperwork showing he has opened a federal campaign fund.

This isn’t the first time Reynolds made a run for Congress since he was let out of prison.

In 2004 Reynolds challenged Jackson in the Democratic primary and won about 6 percent of the vote. Jackson won about 89 percent of the vote.

Former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson has also announced she is running in the special election, which is set for February.

“I can’t believe he entered. There is a point where we really need to put honor back into being a member of Congress.” she said. However: “He paid his debt to society, and we have to remember that too. There’s going to be a lot of people in this race and each one of us is going to be vetted. I believe that each one of us is going to have our chance.”

Reynolds said he would focus on jobs and crime. He said he believes some people in the district will relate to his story of trying for a second chance in life.

“When you go through things in life sometimes you have to stand up and get on your feet again and go forward,” he said.

Asked if he could guarantee people in the 2nd district that if he’s elected he would make sure his tenure didn’t end in scandal, Reynolds paused for a moment.

“Yes,” he finally replied.

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