Jonathan Jackson, the son of Rev. Jesse Jackson, kicks off Congress bid in crowded Democratic primary

“I feel very much prepared,” said Jackson. “I’ve traveled the world with my father. I’ve seen greatness. I’ve been in the room.”

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While his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and his wife, Marilyn, look on, Jonathan Jackson announces his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District — being vacated by Rep. Bobby Rush — during a news conference at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 38 headquarters on the Far South Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. |

While his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and his wife, Marilyn, look on, Jonathan Jackson announces his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District — being vacated by Rep. Bobby Rush — during a news conference at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 38 headquarters on the Far South Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. |

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — Jonathan Jackson, a son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, on Monday kicked off his congressional campaign in the crowded Democratic primary to replace Rep. Bobby Rush, with his main assets his father, the Rainbow/PUSH coalition and a potential national fundraising network.

So far, including Jackson, at least 15 Democrats as of Monday have registered with the Federal Election Commission to run in the June 28 primary for the 1st Congressional District seat Rush will be vacating next year after 15 terms.

Democrats are scrambling for what may well be a once-in-a-generation open seat in the heavily Democratic district stretching from parts of South Shore to the southern suburbs to rural areas near Kankakee.

Jonathan Jackson, the middle son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jacqueline Jackson, announces his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District — being vacated by Rep. Bobby Rush — during a news conference at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 38 headquarters on the Far South Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Jonathan Jackson, the middle son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jacqueline Jackson, announces his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District — being vacated by Rep. Bobby Rush — during a news conference at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 38 headquarters on the Far South Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jackson’s messaging: In remarks at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 hall, 11204 S. Western Ave., Jackson emphasized the place in Black local and national political history the 1st Congressional District holds — sending Black lawmakers to Congress since 1929. That’s Oscar DePriest, William Dawson, Ralph Metcalfe, Harold Washington, Charles Hayes and Rush.

A part of Jackson’s rollout strategy appears to be to position himself as the seeming logical heir to this storied list.

“I feel very much prepared,” said Jackson. “I’ve traveled the world with my father. I’ve seen greatness. I’ve been in the room.”

He thanked Rush for his “lifetime of service to the community. And I know Congressman Rush stands on the shoulder of Charlie Hayes, our labor leader. And I know Charlie Hayes stands on the shoulder of Ralph Metcalfe; and I know he stands on the shoulder of Dawson. And I know, and I know, all the way to Oscar DePriest.”

“This is the 1st Congressional District of Illinois, the longest-serving district for African Americans in American history. I want the opportunity to pick up the mantle.”

Jackson is fundraising by selling campaign T-shirts and a hoodie with four names printed on the front underscoring this campaign theme: Washington, Hayes, Rush, Jackson.

Who has the juice: The fact is Rush, also a minister, is endorsing Karin Norington-Reaves, the CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. This primary will be a test of Rush’s clout. And Rev. Jackson’s.

I get it. Any of the challengers can claim to be the one who deserves the baton.

The seat may not be for Rush — or for Rev. Jackson — to give.

Jonathan Jackson shakes hands with a supporter after announcing his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District during a news conference at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 38 headquarters on the Far South Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Jonathan Jackson shakes hands with a supporter after announcing his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District during a news conference at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 38 headquarters on the Far South Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jackson’s family: Jackson’s main asset is his father, who was at the kickoff event along with his mother, two of his siblings, Yusef and Santita, and wife Marilyn, the new CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. (They have a commuting marriage.)

The reverend, a civil rights leader, is the founder of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, based at 930 E. 50th St. and a two-time presidential candidate, running in 1984 and 1988.

Jackson, 56, has experience in business, college-level teaching, the Rainbow/Push operation and, in 2016, as a national surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Since Jackson talked so much about his family who attended his kickoff, I have to report who was not there: his disgraced older brother, ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who once represented the 2nd Congressional District.

At one time, Jesse was seen as his father’s heir apparent.

Jesse and his now-former wife, onetime Ald. Sandi Jackson, went to prison after looting $750,000 from campaign funds between 2005 and 2012 to pay for a lavish lifestyle.

Jesse, who was out of the public eye for a while, was on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show on Jan. 30 to promote his new book, which draws on his prison experiences.

Jesse, when he ran for Congress, had doors opened for him by his father — including a national fundraising network. His brother Jonathan has that same network to tap into.

It’s way too early to know if voters count out Jackson because of brother Jesse’s corruption — or if the many rivals in the primary make Jesse’s downfall a factor.

Jackson, at his kickoff, talked about Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. He did not mention that Waters is so close to the Jackson family that she has known Jesse Jr., Jonathan and their siblings since they were kids. She can open a lot of doors for Jackson.

Jackson’s top campaign adviser, Clem Balanoff — who also comes out of the Sanders camp — is a political consultant for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.

Reaction: Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) in a statement didn’t mention Jackson by name while noting that the historic line of Black lawmakers from the 1st are all men.

Said Dowell, “I have been a workhorse, not a show horse, who has consistently brought resources back to residents.”

Jonathan Jackson hugs former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones while announcing his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Jonathan Jackson hugs former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones while announcing his intentions to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat representing the 1st Congressional District, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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