Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, whose far South Side ward is in the 2nd Congressional District, says she wasn't surprised that Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from Congress.
But she believes his constituents in the 2nd District feel stung after rallying behind him in the belief he simply needed time to deal with health issues before returning to Congress.
"That's why I'm disappointed in him," Austin said. "He's lost the love and concern of the residents in his district. We gave him the benefit of the doubt because of his sickness, and it didn't have anything to do with that."
Jackson resigned on Wednesday, five months after taking a medical leave to seek treatment for bipolar depression. In his resignation letter, he said has been cooperating with a federal probe into the spending of campaign funds but insisted he was stepping down for health reasons.
Austin, the Democratic committeeman in the 34th Ward, said she plans to support Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, to replace Jackson in Congress.
Beale has expressed interest in the seat in the past, Austin noted, but held off to avoid a divisive primary fight. "This isn't his first ask," Austin said. "He has asked in the past, but he waited his turn. That's important to me."
Beale could not be reached to comment. He released a statement Wednesday afternoon praising Jackson for his "exemplary" service in The U.S. House. "Even though Congressman Jackson has not been able to serve since June, due to illness, he still has an outstanding voting record of which he can be proud," Beale's statement reads in part.
Beale did not directly address his own plans.
"The news of Congressman Jackson’s resignation could not come at a worse time for the people of Illinois and the country," Beale's statement says. "With so much at stake in Washington, those of us who live in the 2nd Congressional District need to have representation as soon as possible."
The doors to Jackson's office in south suburban Homewood were locked Wednesday afternoon. The lights inside the office were off. A few TV news crews were set up in the parking lot.
Several of Jackson's constituents who were shopping at a strip mall near his office said they were glad he resigned.
"My thought is it's probably a good thing because he's not helping the district at all by not being present," said Barbara Schoon, 73, of Park Forest.
"He's been out of contact with people for so long that it's not helping the people in the district," Schoon said. "And obviously he needs some kind of help in solving whatever his problems are."
Schoon also said she wasn't surprised by Jackson's resignation, given the federal investigation. "He's got bigger problems, maybe, than his health," she said.
Elaine Jones of Homewood said she wished Jackson had stepped down before the election.
"I think he did the right thing, and I kind of wish he'd done it sooner instead of running," Jones said. "That way we would have had other options."
Margie D'Astici, 42, of Homewood said she was "baffled" that Jackson stayed in the election, only to resign a few weeks later.
"Between his legal issues and his personal issues that he's had going on, I feel like we haven't had a voice in Congress, so I think it's a good thing he stepped down," D'Astici said.
Dick Johnson, a Homewood resident, said he's happy Jackson stepped down but is skeptical about the process to replace him.
"I thank him for finally doing what he should have done earlier," said Johnson, 85. "But we understand the machine. They'll pick somebody for us. We don't have much of a say in this gerrymandered district. It's pretty well decided for us up in Chicago."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement wishing Jackson a "healthy recovery."
"While I'm sure this was a difficult decision for Congressman Jackson, now is the time to look forward," Emanuel said. "The residents of the 2nd Congressional District will now have an opportunity to choose their next leader to fight for all of us in Washington, DC. My thoughts and prayers are with the Jackson family and I wish Jesse a healthy recovery."
Tribune reporter Jennifer Delgado contributed.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times