OPINION: With electoral victory, Jonathan Jackson keeps hope alive

By Mary Mitchell
Chicago Sun-Times

Jonathan Jackson (right) alongside his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, fills out a ballot Monday at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center Service Center at 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave. 
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Everyone loves a comeback story.

Jonathan Jackson’s win in the 1st Congressional District after being in the shadow of his famous father is an excellent one.

The 1st Congressional District seat carries the weight of history.

A political trailblazer, Oscar DePriest; a history-making mayor, Harold Washington; and a former Black Panther, the Rev. Bobby Rush, once held it, making it ground zero in battles for social change and the pursuit of justice for African American people.

Jackson’s astonishing primary win showed how much weight a famous name can carry in a city that is used to political titles being a family matter.

The Daleys. The Madigans. The Hyneses.

His victory in the general election over his Republican opponent, Eric Carlson — Jackson’s 65% beat Carlson’s 35%, with 95% of precincts reporting — ensures that the district’s legacy of advocacy will be preserved despite a population shift resulting in a dwindling African American population in the city.

Any political aspirations Jackson might have had in the past were overshadowed by his brother Jesse Jackson Jr.’s charismatic personality.

But Jesse Jr., seen by many as his father’s heir apparent, left office in disgrace after he and his wife were convicted of raiding their campaign fund to the tune of $750,000.

His downfall appeared to end any political aspirations Jesse Jackson Sr. might have had for his sons.

Jonathan Jackson seems to be stepping up to fulfill that dream.

His online profile lists him as a business professional, entrepreneur, social justice advocate and national spokesman for Rainbow/PUSH, the civil rights organization his father founded, and the partner in a beer distributorship.

“I feel very much prepared,” Jonathan Jackson repeatedly said during his campaign in the crowded Democratic primary.

“I’ve traveled the world with my father. I’ve seen greatness. I’ve been in the room,” he told Lynn Sweet, the Sun-Times Washington Bureau chief.

That may be true, but he also needs to be clear about what a difference his family name made.

He entered a primary field of 17 candidates that included Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, well-known public figures who have served their constituents energetically and honorably for nearly two decades. Another candidate — Karin Norington-Reaves — had little name recognition and was untested but was endorsed by Rush, who had held the seat for 30 years.

Rush’s endorsement made her a top-tier contender.

But Jonathan Jackson shot past these candidates, capturing 28 percent of the vote.

For those who thought the Jackson name had lost its power, it was a shocker.

Not surprisingly, Jonathan Jackson is reluctant to credit a win to his famous name.

“It’s nothing that was bequeathed,” he said in a recent Sun-Times interview. “It’s not a dynasty. It’s a legacy of service. It’s going to the front line to make a difference,” he said.

But when people on the street urge others to vote for “Jesse Jackson’s son,” that says it all.

Jonathan Jackson should be very proud.

Because of a political victory, his father will get to see one son restore a measure of honor that was tarnished by another.

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