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Debbie Halvorson challenges Jesse Jackson Jr. on ethics, residency

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvors(pictured 2011) announced last month thshe's  running for 2nd Congressional District sereplace former Rep. Jesse

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (pictured in 2011) announced last month that she's running for the 2nd Congressional District seat to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last month. | Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: November 16, 2011 10:36AM

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson launched a scorched-earth campaign to unseat 16-year incumbent Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Thursday, calling him disloyal to President Obama, ethically challenged and a non-resident of Illinois.

Standing across the street from her alma mater, Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Halvorson ripped her fellow Democrat: “We need a congressman who doesn’t have ethical distractions ... We need a congressman who lives in the community, not Washington, D.C., and will come home on weekends and talk to the people.”

Was Halvorson implying Jackson, whose wife is a Chicago alderman, doesn’t live in Chicago?

“I’m not implying anything,” she said. “I’m saying it straight out. He lives in Washington, D.C., he raises his family in Washington, D.C. He does not come home.”

Meeting with other Democratic ward committeemen at the Plumbers Hall Thursday, Jackson’s wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), said, “Members of Congress work five days a week voting on issues of interest to their constituencies. The last I heard, the U.S. House of Representatives is not in the city of Chicago. It is in Washington, D.C. I don’t know if Debbie is confused about where Congress is.”

Halvorson slammed the incumbent congressman for failing to support President Barack Obama’s jobs bill and said he has been criticizing the president at speaking engagements in the community.

Sandi Jackson brushed off Halvorson’s charge that her husband is not supporting Obama enough.

“The congressman has been working hand in hand with our president to bring home jobs, to bring home the kind of projects that will sustain our community,” she said.

What’s the status of the congressional ethics investigation of her husband that was put on hold pending Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial? Sandi Jackson said she could not speak to that.

Her husband has said it will show he did nothing improper in openly campaigning for Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Prosecutors have never charged Jackson with improper behavior but said Blagojevich tried to make money from Jackson supporters by offering to appoint Jackson.

Halvorson lost her south suburban 11th Congressional District seat to Republican Adam Kinzinger last year. Democrats re-drew Jackson’s 2nd Congressional District to stretch from his South Side home all the way down to Kankakee, taking in much of Halvorson’s old territory.

That includes the area she and Jackson have fought about most over the years, the site of a proposed airport near Peotone.

For 15 years, she said, Jackson’s top priority had been creating a south suburban airport near Peotone, and he has nothing to show for it.

After Jackson found a private developer willing to build the airport and formed a governing commission composed primarily of Cook County suburbs, Halvorson worked to block his plan by proposing legislation that would require a majority of Will County suburbs to run the airport.

Halvorson said she decided to run because she couldn’t “sit on the sidelines” and watch as the country’s economy collapsed, jobs were lost, her friends struggled to make a living and Jackson failed to do anything about it all.

Halvorson is a former Crete Township clerk, Illinois state senator and the first woman Senate majority leader in Illinois history.

She said she’ll run a grass-roots campaign; She doesn’t expect to raise much money.

She has $200,000 left over from her losing congressional campaign in 2010 and hopes to raise $300,000 more.

“But I expect to be outspent by a lot in this campaign,” she said.

Jackson has a national reputation owed in part to the name his father, a civil rights leader, made famous.

Despite his controversies, elected officials are coming out to support him, his wife said Thursday: “Many of his friends are coming out of the woodwork, saying ‘We stand with you. We’re going to do everything we can to keep you in Washington.’”

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