Updated 01/16/12 – 4:08 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his challenger, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, were sparring over endorsements on Monday after Jackson said he had the backing of the president, the governor and the mayor, among other key Illinois politicians.
Jackson has released a list of top elected officials he says are backing his re-election bid, including President Barack Obama, Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
But Halvorson questioned the validity of Jackson’s list.
Jackson acknowledged Obama and Emanuel have not publicly endorsed him, but he said they’ve pledged their support in private and he expects public endorsements soon.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
“I called them specifically and spoke with them and asked them for their support and they said they’re with me absolutely,” Jackson said. “I’m fairly confident that their public statements will be coming shortly.”
Halvorson challenged Jackson’s list, but an Obama campaign official said the president told Jackson last fall that he would be endorsing him and Emanuel’s campaign spokesman, Tom Bowne, confirmed Emanuel told Jackson last fall in person that he has Emanuel’s support.
But Halvorson said voters in the new 2nd District deserve better than Jackson, accusing him of being absent in the district.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports
She also said she was surprised to hear Jackson tout Obama’s endorsement.
“I didn’t believe it because I have a better voting record with Barack’s agenda than Jesse does,” Halvorson said.
Jackson, who’s under the cloud of a House ethics investigation and a personal sex scandal last year, is facing a primary challenge from Halvorson, who lost her 11th District seat in 2010 to Adam Kinzinger. A newly redrawn congressional map puts much of her old district in Jackson’s district.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations Jackson used his Congressional staff to campaign for the U.S. Senate vacancy left behind by Obama in 2008. Jackson has admitted seeking Obama’s former Senate seat, but has denied any wrongdoing in his efforts.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted of seeking $1.5 million in campaign cash from key fundraisers for Jackson, in exchange for appointing Jackson to the Senate seat. But Jackson has testified he never directed anyone to offer Blagojevich or anyone else campaign cash for the Senate seat.
Meantime, Jackson has admitted to having an affair with a cocktail waitress from Washington, D.C.
Halvorson said she plans to question Jackson’s statements and give voters in the 2nd District a choice for the first time in years.
She spoke to reporters outside of a Martin Luther King Day memorial service in Robbins where she picked up the endorsements of some African-American women.