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Halvorson on her primary run: Jackson ‘wasn’t doing his job’

Former state Sen. U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorsposes with book she has written 'Playing Ball With Big Boys' while JN Michaels

Former state Sen. and U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson poses with the book she has written, "Playing Ball With the Big Boys," while at JN Michaels Restaurant in Matteson, IL on Monday October 22, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 24, 2012 6:12AM



U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. had stopped serving his constituents long before he revealed he is suffering from bipolar depression, said former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson.

That is why Halvorson, 54, of Crete, said she challenged Jackson in the March Democratic primary once redistricting threw her into his turf.

“I ran because nobody else would and we needed representation for the 2nd District,” said Halvorson, who lost the race. “We all knew he wasn’t doing his job.”

Halvorson, who served 12 years in the state Senate and one term in the U.S. House before being defeated by Republican Adam Kinzinger in 2010, said Jackson stayed in Washington, D.C., and rarely returned to his district. Jackson’s only focus seemed to be the proposed south suburban airport, and he refused to negotiate governance issues with local officials, Halvorson said.

“It was all about him,” she said.

A spokesman for Jackson could not be reached for comment.

Publishes memoir

Halvorson’s views on Jackson and other revelations about her 12 years in politics are included in a 170-page self-published memoir titled “Playing Ball with the Big Boys: And Why the Big Girls Better Get in the Game,” which will be available Nov. 1.

During an interview about the book Monday, Halvorson said the latest developments in the Jackson saga have only reinforced the opinions she formed during her years in politics.

Even with Jackson’s treatment at Mayo Clinic, nothing seems to have changed, she said referencing an automated message from Jackson that went out to constituents over the weekend.

“It was sad that the only way he’s communicating is through a robo call,” she said.

The two Democrats served together in Congress from 2009 to 2011. Halvorson said her comments aren’t “sour grapes,” but she’s worried about the 2nd Congressional District having no voice. And she said Jackson’s mental illness is not the problem, it’s his long absence and his lack of communication with residents.

Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing that can be done about Jackson’s status at this late date, she added.

“The election is in 15 days. He’s on the ballot and you can’t remove his name from the ballot. He should have stepped aside for the sake of the people.”

A chapter on Jackson in the book is titled “Jesse Jackson Jr. — A Talented and Troubled Man.” Jackson isn’t the only politician Halvorson wrote about. She also included stories about President Barack Obama, who was elected to the state Senate the same year she was, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who recruited her to run for U.S. representative.

Campaign money

Once she jumped into the 11th District race, Halvorson said then-U.S. Rep. Emanuel called her daily asking how much money she had raised. That’s the one thing she learned quickly.

“It took millions of dollars to run for office and get re-elected,” she said.

She laments the shrinking number of moderates in Congress and wishes more women would run for all levels of public office. That’s one of the reasons she said she wrote the book.

The toughest part of the book to write was a section on her experience with domestic violence.

“I would read it and I would cry,” she said. “It was hard.”

Halvorson said she didn’t write the book to resurrect her political career. But she did leave the door open a crack when she was asked if she would run for office again.

“You never say never, but at this point (the answer is) a big N-O.”

For more information on Halvorson’s book, go to playingballwiththebigboys.com.



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