Toughest challenge of Jackson’s political career
By ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporteremail@example.com February 21, 2012 1:06AM
FILE - This May 16, 2011 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. during inaugural ceremonies for Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel in Chicago. In a proposed redistricting map drawn to help Democrats, Jackson would be handed rural areas about 65 miles from Chicago. Some of the people who live and work there wonder whether a city slicker from Americas third-largest city can represent a place whose motto includes preserving a rural life. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson
1) For fun I… Spend time with my grandchildren
2) Favorite meal: It is always changing: currently Lamb Chops with lots of vegetables
3) Most vivid childhood memory: Every New Year’s Eve waiting to listen to the top 100 countdown of best songs and I would record my favorites (on cassette tapes)
4) A movie you want people to watch: “Twelve Angry Men”
5) Outside of politics, my dream job would be: A librarian because I love books
6) Least favorite household chore: Almost all of them
7) Here’s an iPod with every song ever recorded. Which one do you punch up? “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger,” by Kelly Clarkson
8) Place I’ve never been I’d like to go: Australia
9) You’d be surprised to find out that I: I have kept a journal since getting into public service and I am now in the process of writing a book.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
1) For fun I… Hunt, fish and do martial arts.
2) Favorite meal: chitterlings.
3) Most vivid childhood memory: fishing with Grandpa Brown and Jackson.
4) A movie you want people to watch: “Anniversary Edition of Enter the Dragon”
5) Outside of politics, my dream job would be: Federal Marshal
6) Least favorite household chore: toilet bowl cleaning.
7) Here’s an iPod with every song ever recorded. Which one do you punch up? Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix.
8) Place I’ve never been I’d like to go: Grand Canyon.
9) You’d be surprised to find out that I: Can’t stand airports, but want to build one.
Updated: March 22, 2012 8:13AM
After all the controversies Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) has endured — testifying at former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial; facing allegations he asked a contributor to fly his “social acquaintance” out to meet Jackson for a rendezvous — can he get re-elected?
To borrow from the ally Jackson joins himself with at the hip for the campaign — Barack Obama — Yes he can, Jackson says.
Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) is giving Jackson the most spirited challenge of his career in the March 20 Democratic primary. Most polls show Jackson comfortably ahead but Halvorson sees a path to victory for herself.
Jackson pulled 50 ministers onto a Hyde Park stage with himself Monday to show he still has clerical support despite Halvorson’s appearances with ministers who used to support Jackson but now support her.
Halvorson says the controversies distract Jackson from doing his job. Jackson still faces a House Ethics committee investigation of whether he used congressional staff to lobby for his appointment to Obama’s senate seat. A Jackson supporter testified at Blagojevich’s first trial that Jackson supporters offered Blagojevich millions of dollars to appoint Jackson.
And then there is Washington, D.C. restaurant hostess Giovanna Huidobro, who the Sun-Times reported was interviewed by the FBI about whether the same Jackson donor bought her airline tickets to fly her to Chicago to meet Jackson.
Jackson took the hand of his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), brought her on-stage and gave her a kiss. She smiled and pledged support to her husband’s re-election.
After the rally, Ald. Jackson said voters never ask her about her husband’s lapses: “They say we’re appalled at the nastiness. It shouldn’t be about one’s personal life. It should be about ideas. Let’s see who has the best ideas.”
Showing off his new “Obama/Jackson” campaign signs, Jackson offered a hint at Monday’s event of how strongly he plans to emphasize Obama’s endorsement of him over Halvorson.
“Barack Obama was at my wedding to my lovely wife,” Jackson said. “I was at the wedding between him and Michelle after that. Rev. Jeremiah Wright performed that service.”
The ministers said Monday that they forgive Jackson for his shortcomings.
“When he had an issue with the situation in Washington, he asked for our forgiveness and our prayers — that’s a man of integrity,” the Rev. Samuel Hinkle said after the rally. “He’s brought so many jobs to the 2nd Congressional district.”
Hinkle and many of the other ministers, including the Rev. Lucius Hall, said they had preached with Jackson’s father and knew Rep. Jackson, 46, since he was a baby.
“We all make mistakes,” Hall said after the rally. “It’s important when we can realize the mistakes that we made. I don’t think the other person should be crushed forever and have to live with the mistake that has been made. We all love Jesse Jr. and we know he loves his family. He hasn’t done anything bad enough to change the love and respect that we have for him.”
The Rev. Willie Campbell said Jackson was up against “satanic forces” and “demonic forces” in the race.
Jackson said, “Most of the pastors on this stage have known me all of my life. They’ve known my highest moments and they’ve known my lowest moments. On some Saturdays and on every Sunday, each one of these pastors prays for someone just like me.”
The ministers and other supporters at Park 52 cheered and applauded.
“To the extent I may have ever let them down over the course of the last 17 years, they know — each and every one of them — that I have prayed with them, I have accepted that responsibility.”
Bishop Larry Trotter accompanied Jackson to his installation as congressman 17 years ago, but now he endorses Halvorson.
“I think Rep. Jackson could have been a little more visible in the community the last time around,” Trotter said. “Debbie Halvorson has a track record of rolling up her sleeves and working when she was [a top deputy to state Sen. President] Emil Jones. I really think people want to see a working congressman and I think she’s going to do it. She turned that situation around in Joliet and brought 7,000 jobs there [landing a veterans’ hospital.]”
Halvorson served one term in Congress in a south suburban district next to Jackson’s. A re-drawing of the maps now puts them in the same district that stretches from Hyde Park down to Kankakee, including the area around Peotone where Jackson has tried for years to build an airport.
Several of the ministers agreed with Jackson Monday that the airport would bring jobs to the region. “He’s put all his eggs in one basket, an airport he can’t deliver on,” Halvorson said.
Representing a formerly Republican area, Halvorson took some stands on issues such as gun-owners’ rights that were more conservative than other Democrats. But she denied Jackson’s charge that she had voted against Obama 88 times. By her count, she voted with Obama 90 percent of the time while Jackson voted with him 80 percent or less. It depends which votes the counters assumes Obama really cared about.