PI Original Ashlee Rezin Tuesday April 9th, 2013, 10:50pm

Robin Kelly Headed To Congress After Winning Illinois' 2nd Congressional District Race (VIDEO)

Former State Rep. Robin Kelly, 56, of Matteson will be the next congressional representative for Illinois’ 2nd District, fulfilling a long-standing tradition of Democratic delegates for Chicago’s South Side and southern suburbs.

Former State Rep. Robin Kelly, 56, of Matteson will be the next congressional representative for Illinois’ 2nd District, fulfilling a long-standing tradition of Democratic delegates for Chicago’s South Side and southern suburbs.

With more than 98.5 percent of the district’s 545 precincts reporting, Kelly won the special election with 70.5 percent of the vote, beating out contenders such as GOP nominee Paul McKinley, Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones and Independent candidate Marcus Lewis.

McKinley came in a distant second with 22.3 percent of the vote.

“We not only won an election, we took on the NRA, we gave a voice to the voiceless, and we put our communities on a brand new path to a brighter day,” said Kelly during her acceptance speech.

She will be sworn in Thursday, April 11.

Joined onstage by the parents of slain teenager Hadiya Pendleton, Kelly vowed to continue her campaign against gun violence.

Pendleton's death pushed Chicago’s gun violence into the spotlight when she was murdered in a park near President Barack Obama’s neighborhood Kenwood home in February. First Lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral and Pendleton, who performed in the President's inaugural parade a few weeks before her death, was mentioned during the President’s State of the Union address as her parents sat in the First Lady’s viewing box.

“Making our families safe from gun violence is going to be a challenge,” said Kelly.

Disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. left his congressional seat vacant after he resigned last year. He plead guilty in February to illegally using some $750,000 in campaign donations for personal use.

Following a viewing party attended by some 100 guests at Bar Louie, attached to the Holiday Inn Matteson, Kelly gave her acceptance speech at around 8:45 p.m. Thanking her backers, Kelly said “you lent us your hearts, your time and your support. And look at where we are now.”

“When I first announced for Congress in December, I asked you to stand by me in a fight that was bigger than any one person,” she said. “I told you then—and throughout this campaign—that our fight wasn't about me—it was about you; about your dreams; your hopes; your families.”

Kelly, who has aligned herself with President Obama and supports his initiative to ban assault weapons and require background checks for all gun sales, has concentrated largely on gun control during her campaign.

Here’s more from Kelly, who also promised to fight cuts to social safety nets, such as Social Security, and to “fix our broken immigration system”:

She said her first action as congresswoman would be setting up her district office.

“The people are crying for constituent services,” she said.

But she also vowed to focus on economic development in her district, and pursue construction of a third airport for Chicagoland, which she called “very high” on her list of priorities.

“I’m going to do what it takes to get the airport done,” she said.

A former two-term Illinois state representative, Kelly served as chief of staff for former Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and an administrative chief for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), a friend of Kelly’s who said their families have spent Christmas together, called tonight “a big night."

“She’s going to be a great public service person for the 2nd Congressional District,” said Graham, who noted she and Kelly were texting this morning about Kelly’s want to do good things for Chicago’s southern suburbs.

The Republican nominee for today’s election reportedly never made a concession speech, but earlier today he called Kelly a “jockey” for the Illinois Democratic political machine.

“She’s insignificant, she’s going to do exactly what the machine tells her to do,” he told Progress Illinois.

Having been endorsed by President Barack Obama, Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, Kelly raised more than $500,000 during her campaign for election.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, spent close to $2 million on television advertisements against Kelly’s opponents during the primary election. Independence USA’s ads focused primarily on gun control, criticizing Kelly’s Democratic opponents for their positions on gun control and high ratings by the National Rifle Association.

Kelly said she attributes today’s victory to her hard work, the hard work of her staff and the hard work of her volunteers.

One voter, Janice Cannon, 56, a three-year resident of Park Forest, said her primary motive for supporting Kelly was the candidate’s strict stance on gun control.

“I’m so proud that Kelly’s stepping up to the plate and battling this senseless violence we see on our streets,” she said, noting that she voted for Kelly earlier in the day.

Cannon’s son, Michael, was shot and killed in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of South Deering in 2007. He was 20 years-old.

“It’s too easy for people to get their hands on guns, we need stricter laws so our youth stop dying,” she said.

Kelly ended her speech tonight saying she would “work hard, day in and day out” to be the voice and champion of constituents like Cannon.

“Together, we grieved but we never gave up. We never lost hope and we never stopped fighting; and we never will,” she said. “Because, after all, you don't overcome challenges by seeing them as too great to conquer. You overcome them by always reaching a little higher, by dreaming a little bigger, and by believing that the stars above us are within our grasp when we reach for them together.”

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