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In 2001, after Mr. Bush took office, Mr. Jackson began to push constitutional amendments that would guarantee a right to universal health care and housing. In 2007, he was one of a small number of lawmakers to call for articles of impeachment against the president. Earlier this year, he pushed for a raise in the minimum wage, an idea that never stood a chance in the GOP-dominated House.

His highest-profile project in the district, a proposed third airport in the Chicago area, never went anywhere over questions of who should run it and whether it was needed.

Mr. Jackson was expected to have distinguished himself more by now.

“He’s got one of the most recognizable names in the country. It carries its burdens and is one that he wanted to attain some kind of national visibility,” said Alan Gitelson, a Loyola University political science professor. But, “We can’t point to any area where Congressman Jackson has marked himself as a leader. His role has been relatively more homestyle than anything else.”