Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Bad End Is Just The Latest For A Snake-Bit District

Nov 21, 2012
Originally published on December 4, 2012 6:20 pm

Talk about your snake-bitten congressional districts.

The Thanksgiving-eve news that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was resigning from Congress after reports that he has bipolar disorder and is the subject of a criminal probe of his spending of campaign funds, is just the latest in a series of bad endings for those who have represented Illinois' 2nd Congressional District in Washington.

Jackson, who held the seat since 1995 and is the son of the civil rights legend, was preceded by Mel Reynolds, another African-American politician also once viewed, like Jackson, as a rising star.

Reynolds, a Rhodes Scholar, ran as the antidote to a controversial predecessor, Gus Savage, in the district which encompasses parts of Chicago's South Side and some of the city's southern suburbs, a worthy representative.

But Reynolds wound up being convicted of having a sexual relationship with an underage campaign volunteer. That by itself was enough to send him to prison. Adding to his prison time were later convictions for bank fraud and lying to federal investigators. Some antidote.

President Clinton commuted Reynolds' sentence. In an ironic twist, Reynolds later went to work for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the organization led by Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The aforementioned Gus Savage, who Reynolds replaced, was in his day one of the most polarizing figures in Chicago politics which, in a city filled with such politicians, was quite an achievement.

Savage was a civil rights activist and a journalist before entering Congress. But the good he did over the course of his life was eclipsed by his penchant as a veteran congressman for labeling his white critics racists, his black ones traitors and for anti-Semitic comments.

As though that weren't enough, toward the end of this six terms in Congress, he faced a sexual misconduct allegation.

A Peace Corps volunteer serving in what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, accused him of trying to force her to have sex with him during his official visit there. Savage was defeated in 1992 by his challenger in the primaries, Reynolds.

Thus, the end of Jackson's career continues a dubious streak, one which residents of the 2nd Congressional District would no doubt gladly see broken.

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