“His office did a poor job of explaining his leave from the beginning,” Cobb said. “But all of this speculation is for nothing. He’s going to be on the ballot in November. Nothing can change that.”
On Nov. 6, Jackson is up for re-election for a 10th term for his district, which includes a large portion of Chicago’s South Side and Southeast suburbs. He faces Republican challenger Brian Woodworth.
The Associated Press notes that the timing of his absence has raised questions:
A House Ethics Committee investigation is pending over allegations Jackson discussed raising money for Rod Blagojevich’s campaign so the then-Illinois governor would appoint him to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich is serving a prison sentence for corruption.
Jackson also allegedly directed a fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, to buy plane tickets for a woman described as Jackson’s “social acquaintance.” Jackson and his wife have called that a personal matter.
Days before Jackson announced the medical leave, Nayak was arrested and pleaded not guilty to unrelated medical fraud charges. At Blagojevich’s 2010 corruption trial, prosecutors said another Blagojevich fundraiser was ready to testify that Jackson instructed Nayak to raise money for Blagojevich’s campaign to help him secure the Senate seat. The same witness later testified he attended a meeting with Jackson and Nayak.
Jackson was not charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
For her part, 28-year-old Jamie Payne, a resident of Chicago’s South Side who lives in Jackson’s district, is prepared to wait for the outcome of the investigation before reaching a conclusion.
Pleased with the announcement that he was expected to recover from his illness, she said his presence in Congress is important because he is one of only three blacks representing Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives (out of 19 members), including Davis and Bobby L. Rush. She said the incident would not affect her vote in November.
“We don’t have that many blacks representing us in Congress and we need him there, especially the younger generation,” said Payne, a resident of Auburn Gresham, who works as a real estate representative. “Younger people need to see him.”
Lynette Holloway is The Root‘s Chicago bureau chief.