Charismatic Libertarian candidate for governor Kash Jackson is locking in votes with his narrative about how Illinois' flawed divorce laws left him penniless and kept him from his children.
It's a contrast to court records in Jackson's divorce case stating he failed to make child support payments from two previous marriages, he once was jailed for not paying, and that he bullied his two youngest kids.
Jackson said he loves his children and that allegations he was unkind to them are untrue. He says he's a victim of a rigged legal system that forced him to pay excessive amounts to see his children and jailed him for exercising free speech.
Father's rights is a key issue for the Antioch resident, who legally changed his name from Benjamin Winderweedle to Grayson Kash Jackson in 2017. He has one child from his first marriage and two from his second.
"In what kind of country do we live in -- where we say, 'You're a bad parent because you get angry because your kids were taken from you?'" the U.S. Navy veteran said at a September 2017 rally in Washington, D.C.
His ex-wife stated Jackson has an "anger problem" and history of "drinking issues" in court documents filed in 2014. "I fear for my safety and my children's safety," she wrote. Orders of protection were granted in 2015 and 2016.
Jackson denies any violent behavior.
A divorce agreement reached in fall 2015 initially stipulated Jackson's visits with his children must be supervised until his therapist believed the supervision could be lifted. It's unknown if those supervised visits remain in place today.
Jackson has spoken in a video of attempting suicide, overcoming addiction to alcohol and battling through depression related to the divorce, which also gave him the impetus to run for governor.
His wife asserted the 39-year-old father has slapped the children on the face as a form of discipline, ordered one child out in the cold to stack bricks at age 6 and made both children do push-ups in the snow.
Jackson said he has never slapped his children. He said he did require his son to move bricks as a punishment and that the child was wearing outdoor clothes.
He also acknowledges making two children do push-ups in the snow in a shopping center parking lot as a consequence of fighting in the back seat of the car, but said they were warmly dressed.
The evidentiary standard in cases such is so low that "whoever tells the best lies in court gets on top," said Jackson, who is pushing for family court reforms in his campaign.
"The allegations toward me have negatively impacted my ability to rear my children," said Jackson, who served in the Navy for 20 years and was a reserve sheriff's deputy in Lake County.
A 2015 financial affidavit from Jackson listed his gross income at about $66,000 a year. After retiring from the Navy in August 2016, his income from a pension and disability benefits was more than $58,800, according to court documents. Jackson said his first marriage, which lasted from 1998 to 2003, ended amicably and the child support requirement was reasonable.
However, in 2017, he was ordered to pay a $15,989 backlog to his first wife.
His second marriage lasted from 2004 to 2014. Jackson was required to pay $1,168 in child support a month, plus half of tuition, child care and extracurricular expenses.
He was jailed for contempt of court for several days in 2017 for not paying about $3,707 in child support.
Attorney Raymond Boldt, who represents Jackson's second ex-wife, said Jackson is due to appear in court later this month on allegations he owes $5,061 in child care, school and extracurricular expenses, and additional child support.
"What's sad about this is that my client holds a regular job and has had to take on outside work so the children can do things like an extracurricular activity, receive appropriate day care and have appropriate medical treatment," Boldt said. "I don't understand that someone who professes Libertarian ideas does not do what a normal everyday person would do for their children."
Jackson said his payments for his three children now reach about $2,500 per month and that it is bankrupting him. Jackson also said because he can't afford to pay for child care that he has offered to provide it; but that was denied. He said "for two years I slept on people's couches" in order to meet his financial obligations.
He thinks the local courts and law enforcement have a conflict of interest in that enforcing unfair divorce rulings generates more money for the judicial system.
"That's what got me into activism," Jackson said. "I discovered how this system forces veterans like me into homelessness and into incarceration."
Illinois Libertarian Political Division Director Scott Schluter said Jackson had been up front about his marital issues, that there is no proof of misconduct and the party supported his candidacy