Questions swirl over Jackson Jr.'s political future

July 12, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The congressman has been on a medical leave of absence for more than a month.

Sources tell ABC7 that Democratic leaders began their private discussions in June, weeks before Rep. Jackson Jr. began his leave.

"I think it's understandable that the leadership would begin to have those types of discussions," said former Harvey mayor David Johnson.

Johnson said before claims of "exhaustion" or "mood disorder" became part of the Jackson Jr. story, concern focused on the potential for legal trouble stemming from the congressman's relationship with indicted businessman Raghuveer Nayak.

"The elephant in the room is whether or not there's an indictment, and that's part of the conversation that I hear," said Johnson.

If the mentally ill Jackson Jr. removes himself from the November ballot for whatever reason, Democratic committee members within the newly redrawn 2nd District would act as soon as possible.

"If he does step down, they would have to then, amongst themselves, choose a person to go on the ballot," said Northeastern Illinois University professor Robert T. Starks.

Among the possible replacement candidates are three state senators: Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields, and Donne Trotter and Kwame Raoul of Chicago. Also in that group are two city aldermen: the 9th Ward's Anthony Beale, and the congressman's wife, the 7th Ward's Sandi Jackson.

Raoul told me that the leadership should not consider anyone at this stage.

"I don't think they should be doing that; they have no idea what specifically is going on with Congressman Jackson. I think it's disrespectful," said Raoul.

Starks says eventually, Jackson must hold a press conference to prove he's recovered from his mood disorder:

"It's on him now to convince the constituents and his fellow members in the congress that he has overcome," said Starks.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Jackson should be in no hurry to return to duty in Washington.

"Why would you go back to a congress that does no work? Why rush him?" said Emanuel.

While Jackson's anonymous doctor expects the congressman to recover, he or she did not set a timetable for it.

The date that kept coming up in conversations Thursday was on or about Labor Day. Party leaders would like the congressman to make a public appearance so they can get on with the business of running a fall campaign.

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