Updated 11/28/12 – 4:54 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested Wednesday that people shouldn’t be too hard on Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), who’s been a no-show at the City Council in recent weeks, while her husband, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., has been dealing with serious legal and medical problems.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Jackson missed the final vote on Emanuel’s $8.3 billion budget plan, has the highest absentee rate in the council, missing six council meetings since last May, and more than 90 percent of her committee meetings.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
She’s also rarely been seen in public since reports her husband’s legal team has been negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors who are investigating possible misuse of campaign funds to decorate the Jackson home.
But Emanuel had nothing but praise for Sandi Jackson on Wednesday.
“She is a valuable person, and has done a great job as an alderman in the city,” the mayor said.
Asked what responsibility Jackson has to her constituents, as far as attending City Council and committee meetings, the mayor said she has to set her priorities as she sees fit.
“She’s a mother, she’s a spouse, and she’s a public official. She can best make that judgment. I can’t,” he said. “She’ll make those choices, and I’m not going to do anything that adds any pressure to her, because she has enough right now, and she has to do it in the interests of the children.”
Jackson’s absentee rate increased after news of her husband former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s mental illness issues, and reports that both are under federal investigation for misuse of campaign funds. Some constituents are sympathetic and others not so much.
“Every time you go in there and she’s not there because she has financial problems our voice is not going to be heard,” said Carla Clair.
“She’s got a lot on her right now with all the things that are happening to her husband,” said Clay Stampley.
The entire Jackson family is under pressure. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is asked about his son’s condition every day.
On Wednesday, Rev. Jackson said, “my son is going back and forth, taking his medical treatment. He is under medical supervision, and I thank people who have reached out to him, and the continuous prayers.”
Even Jackson’s predecessor in Congress, Mel Reynolds, who lost his job after being convicted or having sex with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer, sympathized with Jackson.
“I know Jesse Jackson Jr., and I think many of you know him as well. Can you imagine him backing down from a fight if he was okay? This is clearly a case of him being sick,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds announced Wednesday that he is running to replace Jackson, joining a growing field of candidates who have either thrown their hats in the ring, or are seriously considering bids – including Jesse Jr.’s brother, Jonathan; defense attorney Sam Adam Jr.; and former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Jesse Jr. in the Democratic primary this year.