CHICAGO Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn said on Wednesday he sees no need for Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., to resign his congressional seat or remove himself from the November election ballot, even though Jackson has been undergoing medical treatment for four months.
"He was elected by the people to serve his term," said Quinn, in an interview with WBBM-780 Radio. "Obviously, he has had some health challenges."
Jackson, the son of civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, has been treated for bipolar disorder.
In an interview broadcast by NBC Chicago television, Quinn called his fellow Democrat "a friend" and said he saw no reason why Jackson's absence while being treated for bipolar disorder should interfere with having his name on the November ballot.
According to news reports, citing unnamed sources, Jackson Jr., 47, is being investigated by the FBI over possible misuse of campaign money. The FBI has not confirmed this. Jackson's congressional office did not address the reports, but confirmed on Wednesday that Jackson remains on the ballot.
In a radio interview, Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association, a local political watchdog group, said: "His constituents, 500,000 people, haven't had any representation now for four months. That is one-third of a year. That is one-sixth, or 16 percent, of an entire congressional term."
Jackson was treated for at least six weeks at the Mayo Clinic this summer for bipolar disorder, according to his congressional office. On September 7, his office said he had been released from the clinic and returned to his home in Washington but had not returned to work.
Jackson has also been the subject of a congressional ethics committee probe over an alleged bribe offered to imprisoned Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich by a Jackson supporter in 2008.
The alleged bribe was intended to entice Blagojevich into appointing Jackson to President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has admitted to lobbying for the seat, but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who was convicted of corruption charges.
Jackson, who was first elected to the House in 1995, won the Democratic primary in March to seek a 10th term. He is favored to be re-elected on November 6 in his heavily Democratic district.
Asked if it was possible Jackson could lose the election, Shaw said, "Hell could always freeze over."
(Reporting By Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Stacey Joyce)