Halvorson: Jesse Jackson Jr. ‘Wasn’t doing his job’ even before revealing he was ill
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain Sun-Times Media October 22, 2012 5:00PM
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
For more information on former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson’s book, “Playing Ball with the Big Boys: And Why the Big Girls Better Get in the Game,” visit
Updated: November 24, 2012 6:18AM
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. stopped serving his constituents long before he revealed he is suffering from bipolar disorder, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson said Monday.
That’s why Halvorson, 54, of Crete, said she challenged Jackson in the March Democratic primary once redistricting threw her home 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 November 2010, said Jackson stayed in Washington, D.C., and rarely returned home to his district. Also, Jackson’s only focus seemed to be the proposed south suburban airport in eastern Will County, and he refused to negotiate issues of governance of the airport with local officials, Halvorson said.
“It was all about him,” she said.
A spokesman for Jackson could not be reached for comment.
Halvorson’s views on Jackson and other revelations about her 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 at a Matteson restaurant, 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 District having no voice for months and months. And she said Jackson’s mental illness is not the problem — it’s his long absence from office and his lack of communication with residents.
“Nobody wishes him any harm,” she said. “But there are people living with mental illness and they work every day.”
Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing that can be done about Jackson’s status, 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 in her book. 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 Congress.
Once she jumped into the race for the 11th District seat in the 2008 election, Halvorson said then-U.S. Rep. Emanuel called her daily asking how much money she had raised. That’s the one thing she learned fast in Washington, D.C.
“It took millions of dollars to run for office and get re-elected,” she said. “So you spend every waking moment raising money.”
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, which includes stories about her childhood, her family and her political battles.
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. She’s happy working as a consultant and motivational speaker. 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.”