CHICAGO – Former Illinois legislator Robin Kelly captured the Democratic nomination Tuesday in the race to replace disgraced ex-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., after a truncated campaign season where she got a boost from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC.
The nomination all but assures that Kelly will sail through the April 9 general election and head to Washington, because the Chicago-area district is overwhelmingly Democratic.
From a crowded field of Democratic contenders, Kelly emerged early as a leader on gun-control issues – a central theme during the race – which helped her win support from Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA. It poured more than $2 million into the race by airing anti-gun ads in her favor and against another Democratic front runner, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who is against banning assault weapons, unlike Kelly.
Kelly defended the financial support from Bloomberg, saying: “No one complains when the NRA was spending big money.” In her victory speech, she vowed to fight for gun control until “gun violence is no longer a nightly feature on the evening news.”
Meanwhile, the race among the Republican candidates, all lesser known, was too close to call Tuesday night.
Jackson resigned in November, after a monthslong medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues, then pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges that accused him of misspending $750,000 in campaign money on lavish personal items.
Jackson’s exit created a rare opening in a district where he was first elected in 1995. The primary featured 14 Democrats and four Republicans.