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Illinois delays election to fill Jackson's House seat until April

By Renita D. Young

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois decided on Thursday to delay until April 9 an election to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Democratic Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last week amid an ethics investigation and concerns over his health.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had said on Monday that the special election would be March 19 after a primary on February 26.

But the state Senate voted on Thursday to delay the vote until April to coincide with local elections and save money for the state, which faces a financial crisis. The state House had approved the change on Wednesday.

The winner of the February Democratic primary will be favored in the general election because Jackson's majority African-American district is solidly Democratic.

A number of Democrats have said they intend to run, including state Senators Donne Trotter and Toi Hutchinson, former U.S. Representative Mel Reynolds and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale.

Reynolds had held Jackson's seat before resigning in 1995 after being convicted on criminal charges of sexual assault and solicitation of pornography.

Chicago Pastor Corey Brooks also is considering a run, a spokeswoman said.

Media reports said former U.S. Representative Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Jackson this year in the primaries, also plans to run for the seat.

In his two-page resignation letter, Jackson, 47, who has been treated for bipolar disorder and is reportedly under investigation for possible misuse of campaign funds, acknowledged he was the target of a federal probe and in possible plea talks.

"I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators and accept responsibility for my mistakes," Jackson wrote.

Jackson easily won re-election on November 6 despite the ethics questions.

His resignation did not result in any change in the political balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has a solid Republican majority.

Jackson was treated for at least six weeks this summer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for bipolar disorder, a psychological condition marked by extreme mood swings.

He has also been the subject of a House ethics committee probe over an alleged bribe offered by a Jackson supporter in 2008 to then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The bribe was said to be intended to entice Blagojevich to appoint Jackson to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Jackson has admitted to lobbying for the seat, but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who has since been convicted on corruption charges and imprisoned.

According to news reports citing unnamed sources, Jackson is also being investigated by the FBI over possible misuse of campaign money. The FBI has not confirmed the reports.

(Reporting by Renita D. Young; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Stacey Joyce, Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)

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