After being released from prison early, and into a halfway home, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s father, Reverend Jesse Jackson, said that his son is “half way home,” and that he won’t be satisfied until he’s completely free. All true and understandable enough, coming from a loving father.
Opinion: Why Jesse Jr. Could Make a Comeback
By Elias Cepeda
However, how close is the former U.S. congressman to getting back into public life and, possibly, public office, again? On its face, the notion of a convicted and humiliated former U.S. Rep. thinking about running for office again may seem ludicrous.
After all, Jackson is not even done with his term, yet. And, his wife, former Chicago City Council member Sandi Jackson, will have a year of prison to serve afterwards, for her role in their scams involving public money.
Moreover, the 2nd Illinois Congressional district that Jackson Jr. represented for so long now has Robin Kelly at the helm, who has proven pretty popular thus far. And, 2nd district voters would have to be tired of corrupted men representing them in the nation’s capital, after the last three federal reps have gone down to embarrassing scandal, often involving criminal activity, right?
Perhaps. But, they have also likely grown quite accustomed to it as well.
Gus Savage served six terms as the 2nd district’s U.S. representative, despite multiple anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic statements, as well as an inappropriate sexual advance on a Peace Corps worker during an official trip to Zaire where the congressman partied it up, a Congressional Ethics Investigation found. When he was finally unseated, it was by Mel Reynolds, a former Rhodes Scholar who appeared to be a breath of fresh air and promise for the people of the 2nd district.
While still in office, three years later, Reynolds was convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault, solicitation of child pornography, and obstruction of justice. While serving prison time for those convictions, Reynolds was later convicted on unrelated bank fraud and other criminal financial dealings.
None of that stopped Reynolds from running for office again when he left prison. Or, for being arrested in Zimbabwe for overstaying his visa and for possessing pornography (a crime in that country).
The bank fraud conviction was commuted by President Clinton before he left office, and the pornography charges in Zimbabwe were eventually dropped. Reynolds did end up pleading guilty to violating immigration law.
Jackson Jr. is, of course, neither Savage nor Reynolds. He is, in fact, much more popular than either of them.
While his personal and professional world crumbled all around him amid investigations and revealed scandal, and while criminal charges seemed imminent, Jackson Jr.’s political support among constituents stayed strong. Jackson Jr. easily won reelection in 2012 with over 70 percent of the vote, despite retreating from the public eye amidst an avalanche of controversy.
That isn’t to say that Jackson Jr. would have an easy road to returning to public life or elected office. There’s no telling yet if he even has that desire.
However, he’s likely young enough, with enough family money and community popularity to make it a distinct possibility in the future. After all, extramarital dalliances and audacious and tacky spending have never really been an impermeable wall for politicians.
In America, and in Illinois, neither are criminal convictions.