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Editorial: Voters deserve better

FILE - In this May 16 2011 file phoU.S. Rep. Jesse JacksJr. attends ceremonies for Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel Chicago.

FILE - In this May 16, 2011 file photo, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. attends ceremonies for Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel in Chicago. Days after Jackson was released from a hospital where he was being treated for bipolar disorder, itís still unclear when heíll return to work. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

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Updated: October 22, 2012 6:20AM

It’s all about respect.

For the voters, that is.

Two races on the Nov. 6 ballot are well on their way to enhancing Chicago’s rich lore of elections that, shall we say, don’t run along conventional lines.

First, there’s the Second Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has been on medical leave for three months. Only occasionally has his office attempted to update the public on what’s going on, and explanations have evolved from “exhaustion” to “a mood disorder” to treatment for bipolar disease and gastrointestinal issues.

But that leaves us a little more than six weeks until the election with no idea whether Jackson will be able to campaign or any certainty that he will be up to serving if re-elected.

Running in a safe Democratic district against little-known opponents, Jackson probably can glide to victory without campaigning at all. But in a city with a history of leaving candidates on the ballot solely to keep politicians’ options open for filling the seat later, this is no way to treat voters.

Jackson needs to assure voters that he will be fully up to the challenges of returning to Congress.

Furthermore, he needs to stop hiding from the news media, which he has done ever since an allegation arose in 2008 that an emissary offered to raise more than $1 million for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Jackson to a U.S. Senate seat. Jackson denies the charge. A House ethics investigation continues.

Meanwhile, in the Illinois 10th Representative District, former state Rep. Derrick Smith is running — even though the Illinois House expelled him just last month. Smith has been charged with taking a $7,000 bribe.

A new poll, cited by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller, shows Smith with a big lead. Voters need to know Smith is no run-of-the-mill Democrat, a man who deserves election simply because he’s on the team.

Many Democrats are backing Lance Tyson, who is running as an independent. But House Speaker Mike Madigan, head of the state Democratic Party, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are remaining neutral. They should be urging voters not to re-elect Smith.

As longtime local Republican activist Larry P. Horist prepares to move to Florida this week, his parting shot is that Chicago “operates like a banana republic.”

Let’s not prove him right.

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