There was never a doubt that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. would win re-election. Despite being on medical leave since June to seek treatment for bipolar disorder, and offering little by way of explanation to his constituents about when and if he plans to return to work, Jackson won his bid for a ninth term with 63 percent of the vote.
"My deep and sincere thanks to the people of the 2nd Congressional District. I am humbled and moved by the support shown today," Jackson said in a written statement issued from the Mayo Clinic, where he recently returned for treatment after a stint back home in Washington, D.C. "Every day, I think about your needs and concerns. Once the doctors approve my return to work, I will continue to be the progressive fighter you have known for years. My family and I are grateful for your many heartfelt prayers and kind thoughts. I continue to feel better every day and look forward to serving you."
So far, Chicago voters have demonstrated an extraordinary level of patience. But because they also do not have the privilege of being able to take a long-term, open-ended leave with pay, they may soon start demanding that he either show up for work or shove off.
Jackson is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for allegations that he sought an appointment to fill Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in exchange for raising campaign contributions for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Federal authorities also are looking into whether he improperly used campaign funds to decorate his home.
A lively Election Day conversation with students in a political science class at Chicago's Kennedy-King College became livelier still when the topic turned to Jackson and his extended medical leave.
"I think 60 percent of the public is behind him; 40 percent are somewhat suspicious about the timing. The 60 percent believe it's a medical condition and still support him," Gerald Sconyers told BET.com.
Another student, Ramona Clarke, said she is definitely one of the 40 percent.
"I feel like [the bipolar disorder] is an [escape route] so that he doesn't end up in federal prison like Rod Blagojevich," she said.
But she is perhaps more offended by the fact that taxpayer dollars are being paid to a lawmaker who is not representing his constituents.
"If I'm bipolar and leave my job right now, they'll give me my sick days but they won't continue to pay me and I feel like as taxpayers, we shouldn't be paying him anymore," she said, adding that someone should be doing his job, as Vice President Joe Biden would if something happened to President Obama.
"If he's sick, he should go get healed and then come back. Somebody needs to take his position until he gets himself together," Clarke said.
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(Photo: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
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