After more than four months of silence, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. asks constituents for patience and says he’s “anxious to return to work,” in a robocall to his 2nd Congressional District Saturday, reported by Chicago radio station WBEZ, but gave no timeline on when he’d get back to work.
This is the first time many of Jackson’s more than 500,000 constituents have heard from him since taking a leave of absence in June to undergo medical treatment.
The son of civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said in late June that he took a leave of absence for treatment of exhaustion, however his congressional office later confirmed that he was being treated at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder. His office said on Sept. 7th that he had been released from the Mayo Clinic and would be recovering at his Washington, D.C. home, but not returning to work.
“Like many human beings, a series of events came together in my life at the same time and they’ve been difficult to sort through,” Jackson said on the robocall recording posted on WBEZ’s website. “I am human. I’m doing my best. And I am trying to sort through them all,” he said.
Jackson’s wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, and his representatives have repeatedly said he will continue to run for re-election in the 2nd District. With less than two and a half weeks until election day, Jackson hasn’t campaigned yet, but political analysts say he is a shoo-in to win in the heavily Democratic district that he’s served for nearly 18 years.
This statement was issued less than a week after Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. was accused of misusing campaign money and drinking with women who weren’t his wife at a Washington, D.C. bar. Additionally, Jackson’s message came just days after the Illinois congressman told The Daily he is “not well” in his first interview since he undertook an extended leave of absence.
Adding to his already high level of public scrutiny, a House Ethics Committee continues to look into Jackson’s supposed involvement in trying to be appointed to now-President Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate, reported NBC Chicago. Jackson has admitted he wanted to be appointed to the Senate, but has repeatedly denied allegations he sent emissaries to offer campaign cash to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for the seat, the report said.
Opponent and Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Brian Woodworth released a statement in response to the robocall Saturday evening urging his supporters to pray for Jackson’s health and recovery, but saying that the district needs a voice.
“As we wait for the Congressman to return, we have no voice. And now the Congressman is saying he has no answer about when he will return…if Jackson is re-elected, we will continue to have no voice. There will be no one to stand and advocate for the critical decisions needed to get our economy rolling, and no one to negotiate for the needs of the district,” he said on his Facebook page.
Woodworth continued, saying, “A vote for Jackson at this time will not be a show of sympathy; it will be a vote towards marginalization and disenfranchisement. A vote for Jackson is a vote against your right to be heard in government.”
Jackson thanked his constituents for their thoughts and prayers, and said although there’s progress in his health, he may not be back to work right away.
“I’m starting to heal. The good news is my health is improving, but my doctors tell me the road to recovery is a long one,” Jackson said on the call. According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jackson could be returning to the Mayo Clinic for more medical treatment.
Jackson added, “I am anxious to return to work on your behalf. But at this time, it’s against medical advice. And 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.”
Renita Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.