Vendor who alerted police to Times Square car bomb to run for Congress

Story highlights

  • Duane Jackson wants to represent New York's 19th district in Congress
  • His goal is to establish bipartisan solutions to the country's problems, he says
  • Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to the attempted car bomb attack
One of the street vendors who alerted police to a smoking vehicle in Times Square that was later found to be carrying explosives says he's planning to run for Congress.
Duane Jackson, a registered Democrat and Vietnam veteran, told CNN Wednesday he plans to face off against Republican Representative Nan Hayworth in New York's 19th district in the November election.
In May, 2010, Jackson and another vendor noticed black smoke coming out of a Nissan Pathfinder sport-utility vehicle illegally parked in a bus lane in Times Square, with the keys still in the ignition. Authorities later discovered a bomb inside the vehicle made up of propane tanks, fertilizer and gasoline. The bomb failed to detonate.
Jackson, who sells souvenirs in the square, said his motivation for taking his ideas to Washington is to work with House Speaker John Boehner to help establish more bipartisan solutions.
"I think there's been so much discontent over the years, both with Republicans and Democrats," Jackson, 59, told CNN. "I hear it all the time from my neighbors in the Hudson Valley, as well as people in Times Square."
2010: Salute to Times Square heroes
2010: Salute to Times Square heroes


    2010: Salute to Times Square heroes


2010: Salute to Times Square heroes 00:35
Jackson also believes that there is too much bickering and "nothing's being done," and claims his rival, Hayworth, is "out of touch with the Hudson Valley values."
The vendor was thrust into the spotlight after being credited with helping to prevent what authorities believe was a planned terrorist attack in the heart of Manhattan, even receiving a phone call from President Barack Obama.
Pakistani-born U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to the bombing attempt and is serving a life sentence in prison.
Jackson said he started thinking about the possibility of elected office four or five months ago, after seeking the advice of his town supervisor and his neighbors, but his interest in politics dates back to growing up in California and being involved in student debates. He served in the Navy and attended Boston University on the G.I. Bill, where he received a degree in city planning.
An advocate for veterans, Jackson said he's traveled to Albany numerous times after former New York City Mayor David Dinkins fought to amend a law that would have ended up affecting the businesses of disabled street vendors. He believes his background in city planning will bring a "unique perspective" to the race, he said.
Jackson plans to make an official announcement within the next 10 days and is preparing to file with the Federal Election Commission.
The attempted car bombing changed his life, Jackson said, and is helping him believe that he can make a difference.
"Looking at what do you do, not only for your community, but what you can do for your city, your country, and for your fellow citizens, and when I look back at it, it's like how can I make a difference?" Jackson said. "And that difference somewhat started that night."
Calls to Rep. Hayworth's office were not immediately returned.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Nat Sillin said the potential race between Jackson and the other Democratic candidates running against him will make "great theater for political junkies" as they vie to be the most liberal candidate.
Spokesman Josh Schwerin for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not directly comment on Jackson's potential run, but stated that "New York voters are looking for a representative who will fight for middle class jobs and protect seniors from the devastating cuts to Medicare being pushed by Congresswoman Hayworth and Washington Republicans."