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Illinois sets March election to replace Jesse Jackson Junior

By James B. Kelleher

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois has set a date of March 19 for a special election to fill the U.S. congressional seat vacated by Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last week amid an ethics investigation and concerns over his health.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced the date in a statement on Monday but said the special election may be delayed a few weeks to coincide with local elections in April.

Quinn also said the primary election for the seat will be held on February 26. The winner of the Democratic primary will be the favorite in the general election because the majority African-American district is solidly Democratic.

Even before Quinn set the dates, a number of people were said to be contemplating a run for the seat, according to local media reports. They include including former U.S. Representative Debbie Halvorson, former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, Pastor Corey Brooks and lawyer Sam Adam Jr.

In his two-page resignation letter on Wednesday, 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, who has been in Congress since 1995, easily won re-election earlier this month despite the growing ethics questions.

His resignation did not result in any change in the political balance of power of 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 James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech)

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