Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Other Opponent Speaks

Marcus Lewis is the independent candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, the seat currently held by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Although running as an independent, Lewis says he will caucus with the Democrats if elected. He spoke to Ward Room by phone this morning.

Q: Where are you?
A: I'm at home in Matteson.

Q: So now I know where two of the candidates are. Tell me a little bit about your background and why you're running.

A: Well, I'm 53 years old and I work for the United States Postal Service in Carol Stream as a mail handler. I've been working there 15 years. I'm running because there's a personal issue that drew me in. Congressman Jackson had met with myself, my twin brother and his outreach manager. We presented him a cheating scandal that's going on at Rush Medical College, where minority students are being dismissed in droves and white students are allowed to get extra makeup than the makeup policy allows. He said he was going to file a bill to allow them to resurrect their lawsuits.

Ten days after our initial meeting with Congressman Jackson, I called and talked to his chief of staff, and he said, "Oh, by the way, the congressman's not going to file that bill."Congressman Jackson got on the phone and said, "My staff has informed me that that language is unconstitutional." He reneged. He doesn't care about anybody. He wants to use his office to run for other offices, such as the senator. He wants to use his seat as a springboard to run for mayor. The trouble he's in is of his own making, especially with this Nayak thing. We all know he was involved in some form or fashion where he was initiating things. When you do me, a constituent who asked for no more than help, it's like I'm on Gilligan's Island. If you remember Gilligan's Island, the castaways always told the person who happened to be on the island, they always said, "When you get back to the mainland, tell him that we are here." And they would never do that. That's what Congressman Jackson has done!

Q: Where do you think he is, and do you think he owes his constituents more of an explanation that he's been giving them?

A: Absolutely. This whole thing is a sham. This thing with the [Raghuveer] Nayak thing comes out a week before he takes his leave of absence. They already know and smell this was coming. So get the "I'm exhausted" thing in place and then give a date which it looked like it precluded any of the Nayak.

Q: You sound like a one-issue candidate. Let's talk about economic development. Are you in favor of a third airport?

A: Not in Peotone, no. All they're doing is land-grabbing, the smoke screen of "We're going to build an airport." Twelve, thirteen years he's been on this thing, and not one airline has signed on. I am for the Gary International Airport. We can come to some sort of agreement that you guarantee employment for businesses to service the facility and line employees that will come from the 2nd Congressional District.

Q: What's your idea of economic development?

A: I've gone through the various villages of the district, such as Phoenix, Peotone, Matteson, Hazel Crest, Lansing, Dolton. They all have a spot or a splash of land where there could either be a university, a manufacturing plant. Harvey is so beautifully situated. It has its own on and off ramp. Harvey is a ghost of what it used to be. They've got spots of land that could be a gold mine. We could have a shopping center. We could have a small factory. Somebody's got to make the towels and sheets that go to these prisons. We can have a flag-making company. We can ask Apple and other major manufacturers like Dell. Apple, you need to become more of an American citizen because the iPhone is made in Malaysia and Thailand.

Q: How has Congressman Jackson's disappearance affected your campaign, or interest in your campaign?

A: What it's done is really opened up a window that I can walk through, because now I can speak without him countering me at all, because he's not going to talk to nobody. This is his m.o.: I'm gonna go the whole summer, and I'm gonna garner empathy and sympathy, because we really don't know what is wrong with him, but the problem of it is, he forgot he's a public servant, and being a public servant, you are accountable to the people who pay your salary. Since you are a representative, you cannot disappear and reappear at will, so you tell us the hospital or retreat or, says he's having emotional problems, could be Manteno, or wherever he's at, show us or tell us where you are. Then your doctors should inform us, maybe not in particulars, but you need to give us a bill of what is wrong with you, because you may have become incapacitated. Not like Mark Kirk. We know what facility he's at, and we've seen on TV, he's trying to make a good comeback.

Q: He's got a minimum wage bill in front of the House right now, and he can't advocate on that. What's your position on raising the minimum wage to $10.

A: It's what they're already doing at Walmart now. I think $10 is not a living wage, but it's a good idea. But if you're not there to advocate for it, it's just a bill sitting on someone's desk.

Q: One thing he made an issue of in the primary was the McDonald v. Chicago case. How do you feel about that?

A: We have a lot of killings out here. There needs to be a standard on anything. They say, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Well, people are using guns. They're not fistfighting, carrying sticks, picking up bats and bottles.

Q: Do you think the city of Chicago should be allowed to ban handguns?

A: I think the city of Chicago, since the Supreme Court has unleashed this animal, the Supreme Court should allow the city to be able to say, "We must have a standard. We do not want conceal carry and we do not want all this gun violence. We have to curtail this. This is not the Wild West." This is what the Republicans and George Bush have brought us. This is what happens when people get a quote-unquote right and go buck wild with it. We had 14 shootings on the 3rd of July.

Q: Do you expect to be able to debate Congressman Jackson?

A: Congressman Jackson is not going to debate. That's the whole point of him not being available. Debbie Halvorson had to debate an empty chair. I'm gonna tell you now, and I want this quoted, I am not a one-issue candidate. One thing got me into the race. You should have asked me, "What is your position about Congressman Jackson never holding a job?" He had a position at Rainbow Push, and then he became congressman. He never had to face trying to make his mortgage note. He never had an employer tell him he was overqualified. He never had to face any of this that common people go through. Fine, you're running on your dad's name, but once you've got the job, now it's on you. And everything we're seeing from the hostess that he was flying back and forth. You fly a woman through Nayak, fly her back and forth from Chicago where your wife is! This man has lost his marbles. This is what happens when you've been in a job too long, and you have forgotten, or, now shows, he never knew where he was. He's not one of us. The 2nd Congressional District is a hodgepodge of working-class people, and I am a working-class man. I'm a fourth-generation farmer, so I understand what the people in Peotone are going through. Most of them are Amish. We were growing sorghum, corn and tobacco in Munfordville, Kentucky. I went down there every summer. I know about farming. I know about having prime land people want to take.

Q: I'll ask you a question I asked Brian Woodworth [the Republican nominee for Congress]: have you ever been treated for exhaustion?

A: I've been never treated for exhaustion.

Q: And have you ever had someone pay to fly a mistress come in to see you?

A: No, I have not.

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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