Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has voted by absentee ballot from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, shining a spotlight on his precarious status less than a week before the election.
Jackson is being challenged by two candidates who are much less known—a Republican college professor and postal worker running as an independent—so his re-election likely is not in danger. But Jackson has done virtually no campaigning and recently checked in for a second time at the Mayo Clinic, where he’s being treated for bipolar disorder.
Jackson made a recent robocall to voters, asking for patience and saying he wants to return to work. His status raises the question of how elected officials who admit to mental challenges should be treated by voters.
Jackson’s spokesman, Kevin Lampe, said in a statement that Jackson will not hold an election night event next week.
Jackson’s wife Sandi Jackson told Reuters that he is doing “about the same” upon returning to Mayo.
“He’s going to stay there for the duration as far as we know right now,” she told Reuters. “He’s doing about the same. He’s still at the hospital … We’re still very prayerful that all goes well. You know, these things take time.”
A poll released last week found 58 percent of voters in his heavily Democratic Chicago-area district would vote for Jackson, compared with 27 percent for his Republican opponent and 15 percent for an independent candidate.
Jackson has been in Congress since 1995.
Last week, Jackson spoke to his constituents via a recorded call.
“I’m starting to heal,” Jackson said in the call, released to Chicago radio station WBEZ and other sources in the second congressional district. “The good news is my health is improving, but my doctors tell me the road to recovery is a long one.”
“I am anxious to return to work on your behalf. But at this time, it’s against medical advice,” he added. “While I will always give my all to my constituents, I ask you to continue with your patience as I work to get my health back.”
Jackson, Jr. has been under an FBI investigation due to allegations of the congressman misappropriating campaign funds. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the federal probe is entering its final stages, and Jackson could face indictment before the election. Jackson has yet to address the investigation, and has not been campaigning. With early voting starting on Monday for Illinois, Jackson appealed to voters for their patience.
“Like many human beings, a series of events came together in my life at the same time and they have been difficult to sort through. I am human. I am doing my best. I am trying to sort through them all,” he said in the call. “With your help, your patience, and God’s grace, we will continue to work together to strengthen our communities, provide a better future for our children and leave the world a better than we found it.”