Illinois sets February primary for Jackson's open seat, winner would likely win general

Embattled Illinois congressman to step down


The Illinois governor has ordered a February primary date and requested a special election in April for the open House seat of Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last week amid legal and health problems.

Gov. Pat Quinn set the primary for Feb. 26 to coincide with the existing local primary schedule but will need special approval to move the general election from mid-March to April 9.

State law requires the special election be held within 115 days of the filing of the governor’s writs of election, preventing it from being on the same day as the local elections in April.

Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, held the state’s 2nd Congressional District seat since 1995 and was re-elected Nov. 6 to a 10th term.

The district includes Chicago’s South Side community and leans Democratic, which means the primary winner likely will win the general election.

Jackson left Capitol Hill unannounced in June, and several weeks later news broke that he was getting treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

He was at the time the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation on his political dealings with imprisoned ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And this summer he became the subject of a federal probe purportedly about the alleged misuse of campaign money.

The 47-year-old Jackson acknowledged both health and legal problems in his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner and admitted making his “share of mistakes."

“As my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish,” he wrote. “I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly.”

Among the names mentioned as potential candidates for the seat are Chicago attorney Sam Adam Jr., Chicago Aldermen Sandi Jackson and Anthony Beale; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Jackson in the most recent Democratic primary.

“By holding the special primary and general elections on the same days as existing contests, we can save significant taxpayer dollars and ensure the people of the 2nd District can make their voices heard,” Quinn said.

The district is composed of 263 precincts in suburban Cook County, 170 precincts in Chicago, 85 precincts in Kankakee County and 27 precincts in Will County. Approximately 420,000 registered voters reside in the district, of which more than half are in suburban Cook County.