CHICAGO (AP) _ U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., dogged by links to the corruption case of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his relationship with a female "social acquaintance,'' said Monday that he will not run for Chicago mayor.
Jackson, a Chicago Democrat and son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he wants to continue representing his district on issues, such as building a third regional airport, and "will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of my district, as I have for the past 15 years.''
He announced his decision in a written statement, and said he would not grant interviews. He is expected to easily win re-election next week in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of Chicago and its south suburbs. He first won election in his district in 1995.
Jackson's decision comes two weeks after U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez also announced he would not run for mayor, and slightly narrows the field of potential candidates.
Several people, including former congressman and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and state Sen. James Meeks, are preparing to get into the race after Mayor Richard M. Daley said he would not seek a seventh term.
So far, the list of declared candidates includes former Chicago School Board President Gery Chico, Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle and state Sen. Rickey Hendon.
Jackson said he will not endorse anyone because he has "many friends and colleagues who I deeply respect that may vie to be chief executive of the city, all of whom are very worthy and very capable of being the next mayor.''
His wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, also had been mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate but has not been gathering signatures, said former Chicago Alderman Dick Simpson, head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The fact that Jackson Jr. is not among the candidates surely is a disappointment for a man who has long wanted to be mayor. Many believe he would have been among the favorites if not for the Blagojevich scandal.
When the former governor was charged in 2008 for allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, Jackson acknowledged that he was named in the criminal complaint as a potential Senate candidate who had been in touch with Blagojevich.
The former governor, who denies wrongdoing, will be tried again next year. Jurors at his first 2 1/2-month trial agreed only on one of 24 counts, convicting him of lying to the FBI.
Jackson hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing and has denied reports that an Indian businessman told the FBI that Jackson directed him to offer Blagojevich $6 million for the seat. The businessman also allegedly told investigators that Jackson asked him to buy plane tickets for a woman to visit Jackson. Both Jackson and his wife acknowledged Jackson's relationship with the woman, but called it a “private matter'' and said they had dealt with it through counseling.
"The Blagojevich revelations pretty much sealed his fate,'' said Simpson, the former alderman. "It was finally nailed down for sure when the issue came up about his social relationship.''
Otherwise, Jackson could have put together a formidable campaign for the February election.
"He would have been able to raise the money; he would have been the leading African-American candidate which would have almost certainly thrust him into a runoff,'' Simpson said. "He knows the issues related to the city and would not have been starting cold.''
It's possible that Jackson could rehabilitate his image, and he certainly has a long career in Congress, where he's poised to move up because of seniority, if he wants it, Simpson said. But whether he will ever run for mayor could hinge on what comes out of Blagojevich's retrial, which is set for April.