Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a once-rising political star who has been on a months-long mysterious medical leave for bipolar disorder while facing separate federal investigations, has resigned from Congress, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday.
Jackson’s resignation comes just two weeks after voters re-elected him to a ninth full term and amid a continuing House Ethics Committee investigation into his dealings with imprisoned ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. There also have been reports of a new federal probe into possible misuse of campaign money.
“I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities, and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone,” Jackson said in his resignation letter, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The letter continued: “None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right.”
Jackson, whose father is civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, took office in 1995 after winning a special election. Voters in the district have said Jackson’s family name and attention to local issues have been the main reasons for their support, and he’s easily won every election since taking office. He’s also brought home close to $1 billion in federal money for his district during his tenure.
Jackson did not actively campaign for re-election, and the Sun-Times relates that he cites his health as another factor in the resignation:
Jackson also cited his worsening health, writing “over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish.”
Jackson had planned on a press conference to announce his resignation but was not able to bring himself to speak about it because of his illness, the source said.
“A plea deal has not happened yet. He couldn’t stop crying, so he couldn’t give a press conference. He hasn’t cut a deal yet, but we are trying to get that done,” according to the source close to Jackson. [Emphasis added]
The timing of Jackson’s leave and the way it was handled has certainly invited scrutiny. The resignation was announced just after a former fundraiser connected to the Blagojevich allegations was arrested on unrelated medical fraud charges.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, now has five days to schedule an election to replace Jackson and the vote must be held within 115 days, according to election officials.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Updates have been added.