Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi

Mel Reynolds, former representative from Chicago's 2nd District, wants to reclaim his seat in Congress -- the one Jesse Jackson Jr. vacated when he resigned. Reynolds held this seat from 1993 to 1995 but was convicted of multiple sex-related charges, and Jackson Jr. replaced Reynolds after winning a special election in late 1995.

Not only was Reynolds convicted of having sex with a then 16-year-old campaign volunteer, but while in prison, but he was also convicted on federal financial and campaign fraud charges. In 2001, former President Bill Clinton commuted Reynolds sentence to time served.

After Reynolds release from prison, he worked at the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.'s (father of Jackson Jr.) Chicago Rainbow PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) Coalition. He is now self-employed as a financial consultant.

The Chicago Tribune reported in his present bid for his old job, Reynolds asked potential voters to consider his former congressional experience on the House Ways and Means Committee and urged them "to look at the entire history of me." Another explanation, "The fact of the matter is, nobody's perfect."

This is not the first time Reynolds tried to reclaim his former seat. He ran against Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2004, and Jackson received 88 percent of the vote. Some would say there's a curse on the 2nd District congressional seat. Prior to Reynolds congressional stint, Gus Savage served from 1981 to 1993. Savage had his own issues concerning attempted rape of a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire, although no legal or disciplinary charges were brought against him.

Reynolds challenged Savage in 1988 and 1990 primaries but lost. Subsequently, Reynolds prevailed over Savage in 1992, only to leave the seat in disgrace in 1995. A special election was held later the same year and Jackson Jr. won and replaced Reynolds.

Fast forward to 2012 and Jackson Jr. who has fallen from political grace resigned on Nov. 21 amid federal investigations over misuse of campaign funds and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Enter Mel Reynolds on Nov. 28, joining a pool of contenders and asking voters to allow him to finish the work he started before he morphed into congressman interrupted by a prison term.


On Nov. 6, Jesse Jackson Jr. won 66 percent of the vote in the 2nd Congressional District, although major newspapers reported he was in the Mayo Clinic receiving treatment for bipolar disorder and a federal plea deal was pending. It's surreal that Reynolds wants to run in a special election. If he wins, he'll recapture the seat he was forced to leave behind 17 years ago.

There are many who are vying for Jackson Jr.'s seat, and when he ran for election in November, there were no serious contenders with name recognition. The name "Mel Reynolds" should sound an alarm for anyone who lives in the 2nd District. With the recent Jackson Jr. fiasco, 2nd District constituents are scandal weary.

Reynolds talked about the Judeo-Christian spirit of forgiveness and has posters with "Redemption" lettered in white with a red background and a clean white border. Giving Reynolds another chance seems unimaginable, but in Chicago the political winds blow in aberrant directions.