Disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds said he will ask voters to focus on his congressional experience rather than his state and federal criminal record as he announced his bid today for the seat held by Jesse Jackson Jr., who has resigned.
At a downtown hotel news conference, Reynolds acknowledged having made “mistakes” in the past. For his campaign, he will try to assume the mantle of an incumbent while also seeking redemption from voters. Red and white campaign signs urged voters to “re-elect” Reynolds “so he can finish the work” while another stark red sign with white letters said simply: “Redemption.”
Reynolds held the 2nd Congressional District seat from 1993 until October 1995, when a Cook County jury convicted him of several sex-related charges, including having sex with an underage volunteer campaign worker. While serving time in state prison, Reynolds also was convicted on federal financial and campaign fraud charges. President Bill Clinton commuted Reynolds’ sentence to time served in 2001.
Under law, Reynolds, formerly a South Side resident who is now renting in Dolton, no longer has to register as a sex offender.
Reynolds sought to downplay his previous convictions, contending “it was almost 18, 20 years ago” and that his past crimes “shouldn’t be a life sentence.”
“The fact of the matter is, nobody’s perfect,” Reynolds said, adding that voters should “look at the entire history of me,” including what people do “after they make mistakes.” Reynolds, however, stopped short of acknowledging guilt for any of his crimes.