The void in Congress left by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last month after spending the second half of 2012 bouncing in and out of mental institutions and bars, is vast. And the bar is high for a candidate to meet the expectations of Chicago voters, who resoundingly re-elected Jackson less than four weeks ago even though he had disappeared without a word for five months and was under federal investigation for campaign finance violations. Luckily for Chicagoans, convicted sex offender and former congressman Mel Reynolds is bravely stepping into the breach.

Reynolds, who served Chicago's South Side in Congress from 1993 to 1995, was convicted of statutory rape in 1995 over a relationship with a 16-year-old campaign aide. He was subsequently convicted (and later pardoned by Bill Clinton) of fraud and lying to Securities and Exchange Commission investigators. So he figures he's as qualified as anyone to replace Jackson. From DNA Info Chicago:

Former congressman and ex-con Mel Reynolds has hit the streets in hopes that voters will look beyond his past felony convictions and send him back to Capitol Hill.
But there'll be no baby-kissing on the campaign trail.

In fact, if Reynolds stumps too close to a school or a park, the convicted child sex offender's quest for "redemption" - and the seat vacated by disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. - could get him charged with a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison, law enforcement sources told Chicago.

It's not the first time Reynolds has offered himself to the discriminating voters of Chicagoland. He unsuccessfully challenged Jackson in a 2004 primary. I'm sure they'll realize their mistake now and give him a second chance.

[Image via AP]