Rep. Jesse Jackson, D-Ill., a one-time rising star of Democratic politics, on Wednesday submitted a letter of resignation from the House to Speaker John Boehner, in which he acknowledges being the focus of a federal investigation.
Jackson, 47, who was first elected to to the House in 1995, has been on medical leave from Congress since the summer to seek treatment for what his doctor described as a “mood disorder.” He has since received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
In addition, Jackson has been under investigation by federal authorities for allegedly misusing campaign funds, according to numerous news reports. He also has faced an ongoing congressional ethics probe about his efforts to win appointment from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated when he became president. Blagojevich was later convicted on corruption charges.
The son of the civil-rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson fended off a Democratic primary challenger earlier this spring before his medical troubles became public. He won reelection handily this month in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
Jackson's resignation means that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn must call for a special election taking place within 115 days. The seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands; Jackson won about 63 percent of the vote earlier this month without formally campaigning for reelection.
Democrats are expecting a large field of candidates, potentially including former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, whom Jackson defeated in a primary earlier this year. Jackson's wife, Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, is also reportedly interested; city officeholders will be able to seek the seat without risking their current jobs.
Jackson said in the resignation letter (posted below) that his health has deteriorated and his ability to serve the constituents of his district has deteriorated. But he also focused on his legal difficulties, writing that during his “journey” as a member of Congress, “I have made my share of mistakes.”
“Against the recommendations of my doctors, I hoped and tried to return to Washington,” he wrote in the letter. He added, “I know now that will not be possible.” He said his constituents “deserve a full-time legislator in Washington, something I cannot be for the foreseeable future.”
Jackson also wrote, “I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing the best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone.”
“None of us are immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right,” writes Jackson.
Copies of the letter were addressed to “Speaker Pelosi,” meaning Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other top Republican and Democratic House leaders, including leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus.
From San Francisco, Pelosi released a statement saying that “it is with great sadness” that she learned of Jackson’s decision to resign.
“His service in Congress was marked by his eloquent advocacy for his constituents’ views and interests,” Pelosi said in the statement. “Through his public statements and his writings, he presented a fresh perspective on how we work together to form a more perfect union.”
“As he works to address his health, our thoughts and prayers are with him, his wife Sandi, his children as well as his parents,” she said. “We are grateful to him and his family for their longstanding record of public service to our country.”
Julie Sobel contributed