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Marcus Lewis, the Independent congressional candidate seeking Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat, stands outside his home/campaign headquarters in Matteson.

Marcus Lewis calls Jackson's bipolar disorder convenient

by Tara Kadioglu
Oct 04, 2012

Lewis 2 real one

Tara Kadioglu/MEDILL

Marcus Lewis demonstrates one of his campaign tools, a torso camera he said he bought at Sports Authority to record potential constituents.

Marcus Lewis thinks U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is using mental illness to escape scandal.

Lewis is one of two candidates challenging Jackson for the 2nd Congressional District seat that Jackson has won by landslide for the last 17 years.

A mail-handler with the U.S. Postal Service, he has been organizing his $3,500 campaign as an Independent from his Matteson home.

“Now Jesse’s gone silently to where he’s hiding,” said Lewis, who is 53. “Now he may be actually sick, but I tell you, bipolar is a disease of convenience. People know calling yourself bipolar is easy.”

Jackson has been on leave of absence since June 10 to be treated for bipolar depression at the Mayo Clinic. Bipolar disorder, or bipolar depression, is established as a serious mental illness, according to the websites of the American Psychological Association, the National Institutes of Mental Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Jackson has yet to emerge from his home to discuss his health or guarantee he will return to office before the election. His wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson of the 7th ward, told the press last week that Jackson’s doctors told him to stay quiet and calm, and that he is awaiting medical approval before stepping back in the public eye.

Calls to Jesse Jackson Jr.'s campaign office were not returned.

Brian Woodworth, the Republican candidate in the race, does not question Jackson's illness.

“Mayo Clinic is a very serious and legitimate medical facility," said Woodworth, a law professor at Olivet Nazarene University. "I can’t see any way they would allow him to be in their facility for weeks without him having a legitimate problem. Bipolar disorder is very serious.”

Lewis called Jackson’s illness an excuse for the congressman to evade the press as the House Ethics Committee investigates him for allegations he may have raised money for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.

Lewis said he believes the people of his district are frustrated with the congressman’s absence from official duties—including that of addressing unemployment, Lewis’s top platform issue.

“In Titanic, you know that one scene where you saw 1,500 people of all social and economic levels sinking?” he said. “That’s the second district—they are screaming for help.”

Lewis said he is motivated by his homeless twin brother, Martin. Lewis said Martin became homeless after the 1991 Civil Rights Act prevented him from suing his former medical school for racial discrimination. Lewis said he would introduce legislation to enable people like his brother to sue.

Lewis said he would raise taxes on corporations and cut defense spending in order to expand government jobs.

“I’m a working man,” he said. “Jesse was never a working man, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”

Lewis works the night shift at the U.S. Post Office in Carol Stream, from 10:30 p.m. 7 p.m. and campaigns from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During this interview, Lewis demonstrated a mini-camera from Sports Authority that wraps around his chest.

“It’s so I can record people’s real reactions when I’m talking to them about the campaign,” he said.

It is illegal in the state of Illinois to record a conversation without permission from the other party. Lewis said he always asks for permission before recording, though he did not ask for permission before he recorded part of this interview.

Jackson beat a Green Party candidate and a Republican challenger with 80.5 percent of the vote in 2010.

Various people at a local McDonalds in Matteson had not heard of Lewis.

 “I haven’t even heard of him,” said Sherica Jenkins, 24, of County Club Hills. She plans to support Jackson despite his sickness.

“He’s been doing it so long and following his father’s system,” she said. “I feel like I can trust him.”

Terrica Richmond, 25, of Bourbonnais, had never heard of Lewis, but said she would not be voting for Jackson because of how the media has questioned his integrity.

“If he’s taking time off, he should pull out,” she said.