- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CHICAGO | Rod R. Blagojevich’s name won’t be on the ballot when Chicago votes for a new mayor early next year. But as Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. was reminded this week, the disgraced governor’s shadow still could play a role in the race.

When Mr. Jackson’s wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, appeared at a rally on the city’s far South Side, she was peppered with questions about her husband’s relationship with the former governor, who is facing federal corruption charges.

The alderman said her husband backed out of his planned appearance at the rally because he was ill, and refused to comment on his contention that he knew nothing about a businessman’s alleged offer to raise $1 million for Blagojevich if the governor appointed Mr. Jackson to President Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

Mrs. Jackson said both she and her husband are thinking about running for mayor, after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced this month that he would not seek a seventh term in February’s election. And she trumpeted the congressman’s qualifications.

“My husband absolutely has that kind of gravitas,” she said.

Mrs. Jackson said she and her husband would likely make an announcement this week.

There is a growing field of possible contenders. On Monday, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun said she was circulating petitions for a possible campaign. On Wednesday, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who made national headlines when he sued Craigslist, halted court-ordered evictions and headed a probe into the alleged resale of a historic cemetery’s burial plots, told AP that he is “very strongly considering” a mayoral campaign, and that he expects to make an announcement in three to four weeks.

Blagojevich also presents a problem for another possible mayoral contender - White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, whose name also came up during Blagojevich’s first trial.

One aide to Blagojevich testified that the governor wanted him to tell Mr. Emanuel, then a congressman, that he would not release a grant for a school in Mr. Emanuel’s district unless Mr. Emanuel’s Hollywood-agent brother raised campaign cash for the governor.

There was never a fundraiser and neither Mr. Emanuel nor Mr. Jackson have been accused by prosecutors of any wrongdoing, but analysts said having their names associated with the retrial would not be a plus in a campaign.

“You don’t want to be running [for mayor] from the Dirksen [federal courthouse],” Michael McKeon, a pollster and political strategist in suburban Chicago, said of the building where Blagojevich will stand trial again. “That’s tough.”

He suggested that Mr. Jackson’s challenge to prosecutors during a radio interview Friday - to charge him if they have evidence against him - might be savvy.

“There’s always been ongoing distrust between the African-American community and law enforcement … and when he says, ‘Come and get me if you’ve got anything,’ it resonates with that community,” Mr. McKeon said.

After months of silence on the matter, Mr. Jackson acknowledged in a radio interview Friday that he met with the Indian-American businessmen mentioned in federal prosecutors’ case against Blagojevich. But the son of the civil rights leader said he never heard them talk about a donations-for-Senate-seat exchange, and at one point didn’t understand a word they said because they spoke in a another language.



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