Jackson’s seat likely safe for now
BY LYNN SWEET Twitter: @lynnsweet July 15, 2012 6:30PM
U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. (pictured in October 2011) | Charles Dharapak~AP
POLITICAN MONEY BOX SCORE
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress 2012 campaign cycle
Raised 2011-2012 through June 30, 2012
Itemized Individual Contributions $603,863
Unitemized Individual Contributions $31,753
Party Committees Contributions $0
Other Committees Contributions $336,200
Candidate Contributions $0
TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS $971,816
Operating Expenditures $949,682
CASH ON HAND
Ending Cash On Hand $246,625
Updated: August 17, 2012 7:09AM
WASHINGTON — It’s very premature to write off the political career of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) — at an undisclosed location getting treated for a serious “mood disorder.” He has $246,625 in his political warchest as of June 30, a virtually unknown GOP opponent running in a heavily Democratic district with no political cash and a savvy top political strategist — his wife.
“We haven’t hit the $5,000 mark yet,” GOP nominee Brian Woodworth told me Sunday.
Woodworth, an associate professor of criminal justice at Illinois Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, has not even raised or spent enough — $5,000 — to trigger having to file a report with the Federal Election Commission.
Even all the national attention on Jackson’s disappearance has not translated right away into political donations, Woodworth told me. “We haven’t had any money come in yet. We do have a number of promises,” he said.
Jackson has given Woodworth a gift — of free publicity to a political unknown. “He’s managed to give me more press then I can ever purchase,” because of the “mystery surrounding him,” Woodworth told me.
According to the latest campaign finance disclosures, due on Sunday, a firm run by Rep. Jackson’s wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), continues to receive $5,000 a month. The firm, J. Donnatella and Associates, is based in Washington, D.C.
Sandi Jackson at this time of crisis serves in two roles —as a wife whose husband has serious mental health issues, and as his chief political advisor and campaign manager. Ald. Jackson — who has worked for the Democratic National Committee — has been on her husband’s political payroll for years.
“She is still running the political operation, she is running the campaign,” Kevin Lampe, a Jackson spokesman, told me Sunday. “The campaign is still moving forward. We have people working on the data base, people working on the outreach. The campaign is ongoing,” he said.
The Jackson family divides time between homes in Washington and the South Side of Chicago, living here in a red brick rowhouse off of DuPont Circle. Their children attend the private Washington International School here. I talked to a parent of a WIS student who saw Rep. Jackson at a school function just before the summer break — and said nothing obvious seemed wrong with him.
Before anyone concludes Jackson will resign or give up his nomination, consider that he has nominal GOP opposition in November and comebacks and second acts are common in politics.
Jackson’s House seat — for now — seems safe even if he is off the job for months. And while there is a push for him to disclose more — add me to that group — the political reality is he suffers little consequence for taking his time.
Presuming he will be healthy enough to serve — being in Congress keeps Jackson in the game.
He may not rise higher — but he might not have anyway. Winning a Chicago mayoral election was always a longshot and Jackson — back when his stock was high — backed down from challenging former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Jackson’s political career in Illinois — outside of his House district — faced obstacles because of controversies surrounding his father, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson — including Illinois-specific tangles with the Decatur school board in 1999 and the Highland Park police department in 2000 that would impact a statewide run.
Jackson defeated former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) in the March Democratic primary — scoring a big victory even with ethics clouds hanging over him over his bid to get former now imprisoned Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint him to the Senate seat held by President Barack Obama — and a relationship with a female that strained his marriage.
Jackson’s political advancement is more dependent on him getting rid of his ethics issues — and not over when he discloses what ails him, where he is being treated and when his constituents can expect him back on the job.
A few months ago, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) seemed at the end of his political career. He resigned in June 2011, because of a sex-texting scandal; now he is mulling running in 2013 for New York mayor or another city office called public advocate, the New York Post is reporting.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Jackson’s political career is not over.
“I don’t know what his specific challenge is, but let me tell you, members of Congress in both parties, men and women, go through a lot of trials, physical and mental trials . . . and they emerge from them stronger. American people and the people of Illinois will stand behind a congressman who is facing his challenges head on and they’ll support him,” Durbin said.
Jackson last voted in Congress on June 8; his absence started June 10, according to his staff.
Of course, there are upsets. In 1994, as then Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) was facing an unfolding scandal, he lost his seat to a political unknown, Republican attorney Michael Flanagan. Flanagan was defeated after one term by Rod Blagojevich. When Blagojevich decided to run for Illinois governor, Rahm Emanuel won the seat, giving it up to become chief of staff for Obama. That seat is now held by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.).