Jesse L. Jackson, who is deliberating over whether to run for a post as a "shadow" senator to lobby for D.C. statehood, directed an aide to pick up petitions yesterday for a possible campaign.
Dee Hunter, the local coordinator for the National Rainbow Coalition, picked up the petitions from the D.C. Board of Elections that are necessary for Jackson to appear on the Sept. 11 primary ballot.
Jackson, who shifted his political operation from Chicago to Washington, announced this spring that he would not be a candidate for mayor, but left open the possibility he might seek a shadow senator position as part of his efforts to obtain statehood for the District.
The D.C. Council in March authorized an election this year to choose two unofficial senators and a representative, who would lobby for statehood on Capitol Hill.
Two thousand signatures from registered District voters are needed to qualify to appear in the primary and the November general elections.
For Jackson, who has held talks with friends and advisers this week about the potential risks and advantages of vying for one of the seats, the move marks the first concrete step toward entering the race.
Jackson said yesterday that he is giving the idea "serious consideration."
Frank E. Watkins, an aide to Jackson and the National D.C. Statehood coordinator, said petitions will be circulated to ensure that Jackson can meet the July 5 filing deadline if he decides to run.
"He's leaning in that direction and we want to make sure we will have the 2,000 signatures," said Watkins. He added that Rainbow Coaltion workers will begin gathering signatures this weekend.
Many local political activists have said there is no doubt that Jackson, the two-time Democratic presidential candidate, would win the race, but some wonder whether a post with no official standing with Congress and no public funds to hire a staff is beneath Jackson.
"I think it's a demeaning kind of office and I don't think he wants to step into that," said Edward Guinan, a D.C. statehood pioneer who drafted the proposal for the positions.
Moreover, some of Jackson's advisers are concerned that election to a shadow senator seat might somehow adversely affect his standing as he ponders another campaign for president in 1992. However, some say that winning the seat might help to quiet criticism that Jackson has never held an elective post.
"I'm for it," said Ronald Walters, a Howard University political science professor and Jackson confidant. "It would give him a quasi-official role in working for statehood.
Two candidates already have entered the race, but neither has the stature that Jackson advisers say is needed to complement Jackson.
One candidate, Harry Thomas Jr., president of the D.C. Young Democrats, is the son of D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Sr. (D-Ward 5). The other candidate, Tom Chorlton, is a D.C. Statehood Party member who ran an unsuccessful campaign for D.C. Council in 1988.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.