What’s going on with former Rep. Jim Jacks?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

If you’re hunting around the Internet looking for stuff on former state Rep. Jim Jacks, you’re likely to come back with this message:

“The page you requested was not found.”

It’s almost as though his history has been wiped clean. It has simply … vanished.

Coming Sunday

Jim Jacks’ exclusive interview continues in another Press Talk column only in The Columbian print edition.

Not unlike — in many ways — the man himself.

• • •

On March 24, Jacks represented Vancouver’s 49th District. The Democrat had been elected four months earlier to his second two-year term in this mostly liberal-leaning part of our city.

On March 25, something had changed.

He was gone.

Jacks, 41, married with two children, abruptly resigned. No two weeks’ notice. No waiting for the regular legislative session to end. He was gone.

Saying virtually nothing about why — he cited personal reasons — it was the last we had heard from him.

The blogosphere almost immediately melted down. A tsunami of rumors rolled over the community.

What … was … going … on?

• • •

By all outward appearances, Jacks was a good man. A family man. A man dedicated to his profession and willing to work hard. In his last winning election, he counted the number of doors he knocked on (1,487) and the number of miles (93) he walked to get to those doors.

Those who were close to him, who worked with him, always spoke highly of him.

“Rep. Jacks has been a good legislator for the people of his district,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, would say.

Sen. Craig Pridemore called Jacks a rising star.

• • •

With all the good spoken of him, a growing number of community members began to feel they were at least owed some type of explanation about his sudden … disappearance.

What happened?

As a newspaper, we felt an obligation to help find those answers. Certainly we could appreciate the desire of someone to keep some issues private. But in the case of a public official, those “private” issues are few and far between. When you do public business as a public official, your life is essentially public.

The Columbian searched for any kind of paper trail. Any records explaining why Jacks might have decided to suddenly give it up. But unlike public records in most other public bodies, the state Legislature cooked into the law books an ability to keep some of its stuff private. It’s a little something special for them.

So even if there was a paper trail, it wasn’t available to us.

• • •

Still, we were scrambling, trying to piece a story together. We needed to get something to the community.

We turned over as many rocks as we could. We didn’t come up with much, but I was coming to the conclusion that what little we had was going to be enough.

I was ready to pull the trigger. And I was giving us until the end of this week.

We tried calling Jacks. I left a message asking him to call us. Nothing. I left another message asking again. Nothing again.

On my last attempt, I left a message telling Jacks it was likely we’d go with printing something even without a return call.

Then a breakthrough.

Jacks left us a message. He thought he was about ready to talk.

The next morning I called yet again. Jacks answered.

“Jim, what’s going on?”

We spoke for quite a while. He was getting cold feet about going public. We talked it through. Reluctantly, he said what he needed to say:

“I resigned because I’m an alcoholic.”

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.