Jockeying underway to replace Rep. Jackson Jr.

Jockeying underway to replace Jackson Jr., Stroger possible candidate

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CHICAGO (Associated Press) -

At least a dozen candidates have been mentioned to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress, and some Democratic leaders are concerned about a potentially crowded field.

Jackson resigned Wednesday following a leave of absence for bipolar disorder. He also admitted he is the subject of a federal probe and is cooperating with investigators.

Among the possible contenders to replace him are Chicago Aldermen Anthony Beale and Will Burns and defense attorney Sam Adam Jr.

Jackson's brother Jonathan also has been mentioned. So has his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson.

That prompted Congressman Bobby Rush to tell would-be candidates: "Cool your jets."

Rush said if the field of candidates is too large it could make it easier for a more conservative candidate to win in the Democratic stronghold.

Add Todd Stroger, the beleaguered former Cook County Board president, to the list of possible candidates for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old congressional seat.

Stroger told the Sun-Times on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Jackson's resignation was announced, he's seriously considering it after receiving some calls from listeners to his talk show Tuesday nights on WVON-AM.

"I was on WVON and some callers chatted with me and I'm thinking about it," Stroger told the Sun-Times.

Stroger says he lives just outside the Second Congressional District that includes stretches of the South Side and suburbs, but that it's hardly a bump in the road.

"That really isn't a problem, my wife has been trying to get me to move so that wouldn't be a problem," he said.

But it does mean moving from the South Side bungalow where he grew up, and where he and his wife are now raising their young son and daughter.

Stroger isn't that sentimental about it. Right now he's just weighing options. Indeed, he said it's been tough landing full-time work. Last summer he told the Sun-Times that his political rival, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, bad-mouths him so much that he's seen as "radioactive."

"I'm doing, as they say, some exploring at this point," Stroger said when asked just how serious he is.

While he has long-complained about how he was mistreated by the media, he said he'd be ready to get back in to the political game for the congressional seat.

"When you're a congressman, the media they don't come after you. They really can't destroy you way they did when I was at the county," he said.

Reminded that Jackson found himself in the media spotlight time and again, Stroger said: "I just don't think it's the same."

The voters unceremoniously dumped Stroger — whose late father also was the county board president and ruled the black 8th Ward political army for decades — as his first term drew to a close. Preckwinkle, then the 4th Ward alderman, left him and two other challengers in the dust in the Democratic primary.

Today, two of Stroger's top aides are facing public corruption trials. Carla Oglesby, his one-time deputy chief of staff, is set to go on trial Feb. 11 for allegedly steering no-bid, no-work government contracts to friends and her own private public relations firm. She has denied the felony charges she's facing in state court.

And his childhood friend Eugene Mullins, a former Chicago cop who served as Stroger's chief spokesman, is awaiting trial on federal charges he was involved in a kickback scheme involving government contracts. Specifically, authorities say, he accepted $34,700 in exchange for improperly steering four county contracts for disaster relief, energy grants and census work. Mullins has pleaded not guilty.

Stroger said he doesn't think those pending cases would hurt his chances of winning a congressional seat, and he defends the two.

"Gene is my friend and he if he says he's innocent of the charges, I believe him," Stroger said. As for Oglesby, Stroger said: "I don't think she was trying to take money from the government illegally or purposely in any way."

Asked whether he had begun any formal or informal work to launch a campaign, Stroger offered a "whoa.'

"They haven't even announced the election date. First things first."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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