Sandi Jackson, Wife of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Seen as Possible Successor

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After Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from Congress, the name of his wife Sandi Jackson, a Chicago Alderman, has been floated as a possible successor to him.

While she has not confirmed that she is interested in running in the special election, she has speculated in the past that a run for Congress might be in her future. Though there likely will be many names circulated for Rep. Jackson’s vacated seat—including Rep. Jackson’s brother Jonathan Jackson, another son of Rev. Jesse Jackson—Alderman Jackson will have a decided advantage in name recognition and already having a base in the district.

Rep. Jackson resigned his seat just two weeks after his resounding victory in the second district, which he has represented since 1995. He won 63 percent of the vote despite the fact that he disappeared from public view back in June and has been treated at a facility in Arizona and at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. Under Illinois law, there must be a special election within 115 days to fill a vacated congressional seat. Jackson likely opted for a special election rather than dropping out before the election so that the seat could remain in Democratic hands rather than being won by his Republican opponent in his absence.

In addition to his health problems, Jackson also faces a serious FBI investigation into his alleged misuse of campaign funds. According to reports, he is in negotiations with the federal government over a plea deal that could result in jail time. The FBI investigation has been looking at Jackson’s alleged use of campaign funds to decorate his home and to buy a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend. The investigation has expanded to include his wife Sandi Jackson, according to reports. Investigators are scrutinizing whether Mrs. Jackson was aware of or complicit in her husband’s alleged misuse of campaign money.

“For seventeen years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy, and life to public service,” Jackson wrote in his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner. “However, over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish… The constituents of the Second District deserve a full-time legislator in Washington, something I cannot be for the foreseeable future. My health issues and treatment regimen have become incompatible with service in the House of Representatives.”

Two years ago, Sandi Jackson talked about her husband’s affair with a blond Washington hostess, saying she was sticking by him. She said he had told her about the affair two years earlier.

“He said it was over. I was mortified and in agony,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times, “but he knew if I found out any other way it would be over.”

She told Essence the revelation was followed by sleepless nights and hair loss, she said. “I told him I would only consider staying if we got into therapy.”

“You know, when the Clintons ran into marital trouble, I thought ‘Hillary should leave Bill’,” she said. “I couldn’t stand what Tiger Woods did and how his wife had to suffer publicly. But when the ‘beast’ lands at your door, it can be a very, very different experience. No one really knows what they are going to do until they are in that situation.”

Jackson said she would stay focused on their children, now aged 12 and 9, and realized there are people in worse situations. “Mine is a matter of the heart,” she said. “For many it’s a matter of survival. My heart will heal.”

Before being elected to the Chicago city council, Mrs. Jackson, who also owned her owned political consulting firm, served as Deputy Director of Training for the Democratic National Committee, Director of Scheduling Operations for Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vice President of Congressional and External Affairs for the Export-Import Bank of the United States (appointed by Bill Clinton), Director of VIP Relations for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, National Outreach Coordinator for Clinton/Gore 96 Campaign.

In addition to Jackson, the field could also include a former NFL linebacker and a defense attorney who represented R&B singer R. Kelly and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said officials want to hold the elections on the same dates as previously scheduled elections for municipal officials, which are set for a Feb. 26 primary and an April 9 general election.Orr said holding the 2nd Congressional District election those same dates would save money. But a federal judge will have to approve those dates because they do not conform to state law regarding deadlines for petition filing and when the election must be held.Longtime Chicago political strategist Thom Serafin said that because of the truncated election process, candidates who already are in office, are organized, and have shown they can raise money have the advantage.

“There’s little doubt based on the district’s history that a Democrat will be elected here,” Serafin said. “The big question is who can organize and ‘show me’ they’re the real deal? It’s much simpler for someone who has been in the game for some time to put that together.”

Serafin said the Jackson name could draw a strong base of voters to the polls. If roughly 135,000 to 200,000 voters turn out and the field is split between multiple candidates, that base could be enough, he said.
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