CHICAGO — Will Ald. Sandi Jackson run for the very congressional seat that her husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., resigned in disgrace?
“Never say never,” Jackson told DNAinfo.com Chicago in an exclusive interview. “One never knows what the future may hold.”
Jackson said she has been encouraged to run to replace her husband in Congress and the “consideration looms large.”
That might strike fear in the hearts of the crowded field of candidates running to replace her husband in the Feb. 26 special Democratic primary election.
But Jackson said she doesn’t want her pending decision to have that effect. Most of the declared candidates are “friends” she wants to “get out and campaign their hearts out and put out their best plans,” she said.
Still, Jackson told DNAinfo that the next leader of the 2nd Congressional District should be someone who “understands the inner workings of Congress and the importance of bipartisan efforts.”
The district needs someone mindful that the country is facing a looming fiscal cliff and a financial situation unlike any other as we try to pull out of a recession, she said.
Someone, well, like her — with “25 years of experience being on the Hill … blessed to live in both worlds as a congressman’s wife, staffer and alderman.”
She said she’s had conversations about running, including talks with family friend, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Jackson said she understands the “blessings and pitfalls” of the job, and her hang-up is that she’s not sure about “frying up the bacon and bringing it home, too.
“I don’t take that lightly. I know how seriously it took a toll on Jesse. … It’s heavy lifting, and everyone considering running should understand the gravity.”
So “at this very moment,” Jackson said in a telephone interview, her decision will be not to make a decision, yet.
Besides, she has a few more pressing priorities.
“Family comes first, and I’ve got a lot on my plate,” she said. “My husband’s health is No. 1, and the welfare of our children is No. 1 as well. I’m a cup half-full kind of gal. … I’m looking out the front window, not the rearview mirror.”
Immediately, the road ahead will lead to City Hall, where Jackson said she plans to attend her first City Council meeting since her husband resigned from office.
Jackson has been dubbed one of the City Council’s “absentee aldermen.” She’s been criticized for missing meetings and votes on key issues, including the city budget since her husband’s battle with bipolar disorder and the feds' probe into his campaign finances became public — and ultimately led to his resignation just weeks after he won re-election last month.
Jackson said she has been holed up in Washington, D.C., focusing on taking care of her children, fattening up her husband and working from afar, “behind the scenes,” to take care of constituent concerns.
Jackson said she has no plans to resign as alderman, despite well-reported speculation to the contrary.
“It’s a great job, and we’re still working hard and have a big development under way that will take off next year with U.S. 41 opening on the former U.S. Steel site. And we’re working with really good police commanders tamping down gang activity. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.
Meanwhile, she’s trying to focus on the “transition” in the wake of her husband’s personal and professional collapse, which has become a “family crisis.”
“I’m human like everyone else. My situation is public, and because of that I get a lot of support that I’m eternally grateful for, and it makes a lot of difference,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t make it any less painful, but I have the kindness of strangers, and it helps me keep my head up and be strong.”
With reporters staked out in front of her house and the political rumor mill running rampant, Jackson said keeping a positive outlook — and protecting her children from the fray — isn’t always easy.
Plus, she knows that people also wonder about the future of her very public marriage to a man whose troubles — and relationship with a certain blond “social acquaintance” — have made big headlines.
When the question no one has asked her before came up, Jackson was definitive.
“No, I am not divorcing him,” she said. “We are a family, and we have the same issues as anyone else, and we work on those issues and keep it together, and we’re gonna be strong,” she said. “What keeps us together is a binding friendship. And my husband and I were the best of friends before we dated, and we are the best of friends now. That’s all anyone can hope for.”
And Jackson wants people to know that her husband, her best friend, is on the mend.
“Jesse is back on his regimen and back to the doctor. He’s home and feeling better, and we’re trying to put some meat on those bones as much as we can,” she said. “It’s good to have family together for the holidays, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
But first there’s Wednesday’s City Council meeting, where Jackson surely will face a pack of reporters eager to ask her where she’s been.