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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr. Asks His Constituents for Patience

CHICAGO - Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who has stayed out of public view for months even as Election Day and his own bid for re-election have approached, reemerged on Saturday. Or at least his voice did, in a brief, recorded statement delivered via telephone to residents in his district on this city's South Side and southern suburbs.

It was an unusual political message (and Mr. Jackson's first since at least June) in what has been one of the more unusual congressional campaigns - or non-campaigns, in the eyes of many here.

“Hello this is Congressman Jackson,” Mr. Jackson says in a quiet, somber voice on the recorded message. “For the past few months I have undergone medical treatment to address several serious health issues. Like many human beings a series of events came together in my life at the same time and they have been difficult to sort through. I am human. I am doing my best.  I am trying to sort through them all.”

Since June, Mr. Jackson, a Democrat and the son of the civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, has been on medical leave from Congress and has made no official appearances in the district that he represented since 1995, or anywhere else. His office has disclosed that he was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for bipolar disorder and in recent weeks has been recovering at his home in Washington.

While the recorded call - an effort to talk directly to constituents, Mr. Jackson's campaign said - was the first clear sign of Mr. Jackson's involvement as Election Day approaches, few here were expecting a ramp-up of campaigning now. The possibility that Mr. Jackson might yet appear in person on the trail seems remote; recent news reports have suggested that Mr. Jackson might require additional inpatient treatment, and someone close to Mr. Jackson said on Saturday that he was likely to soon return to the Mayo Clinic.

“I am starting to heal,” Mr. Jackson says on the recording. “The good news is my health is improving, but my doctors tell me the road to recovery is a long one. For nearly 18 years I have served the people of the second district, I am anxious to return to work on your behalf, but at this time it is against medical advice, and while I will always give my all to my constituents, I ask for your continued patience as I work to get my health back.”

Even without a real campaign and despite recent revelations that federal authorities were investigating the possible misuse of campaign funds by Mr. Jackson, Mr. Jackson is likely to win re-election, political experts here say. Mr. Jackson is well known, particularly compared with his opponents (a Republican, an Independent and a write-in candidate), and the district leans firmly Democratic.

Mr. Jackson's opponents, all of whom have struggled to draw attention to the race, were quick to respond to Mr. Jackson's recording. Marcus Lewis, an i ndependent, questioned whether Mr. Jackson had really made the recording at all, suggesting that the voice might actually belong to an actor. “Someone should do a voice analysis,” a release from Mr. Lewis said. “There is no proof.”