Former State Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson has won the Illinois 2nd Congressional District's primary election Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee in the race to fill the seat left vacant by disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Kelly will run in the district’s April 9 general election to replace Jackson Jr., who pled guilty last week to misusing some $750,000 in campaign funds.
With more than half of the district's 545 precincts reporting, Kelly won the special primary with 54 percent of the vote. Major contenders during Kelly’s campaign were Democratic candidates former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).
Following a viewing party at the Holiday Inn Chicago Matteson Conference Center, where more than 200 supporters gathered to watch the polls come in, Kelly gave a 9 p.m. acceptance speech that thanked her backers and promised gun reform, if elected in the April 9 general election.
“We will keep standing with our president,” she said to a reception of cheers and applause. “We will keep raising our voices. We will fight to ban assault weapons, to close the gun show loophole and to ban high capacity magazine clips.”
Here's more from Kelly's victory speech:
On an election day that saw a blizzard and low voter turnout, Kelly took the podium with tears in her eyes. She was surrounded by her family, Chicagoland parents who held up pictures of children they’ve lost to gun violence, and political supporters such as Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) and State Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey).
“We will do whatever it takes to end this epidemic of gun violence, once and for all.”
Gun control took the spotlight during Kelly’s campaign as she aligned herself with President Obama and supported his initiative to require background checks for all gun sales. Touting an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association, Kelly repeatedly questioned other candidates’ affiliations with the lobby group.
Close to $2 million in television advertisements sponsored by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, also may have given Kelly’s campaign a boost, as the ads attacked Halvorson and State Sen. Toi Hutchinson's “A” ratings from the NRA as well as Halvorson's past positions against assault weapons bans.
Earlier today, Kelly said she didn’t ask Bloomberg to “spend that money” and feels as if she would have won regardless.
“Citizens United set a terrible precedence for this country, and I’m sure Robin would agree with that,” said former Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias regarding a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows individuals and corporations to donate unlimited funds to political action committees.
“In this race though, it may have been helpful,” he said.
From 2007 to 2010, Kelly served as chief of staff for Giannoulias, she then ran as the 2010 Democratic nominee for Illinois State Treasurer, but lost in the general election.
“I am incredibly excited about Robin’s win, I think she ran a great campaign,” Giannoulias said. “She’s a terrific candidate and I think she’s going to be an outstanding congresswoman. She talks about economic development, she talks about jobs, she talks about getting guns off our streets, and she’s got a lot of work to do, but I think she’s the right person for the job.”
Having bowed out of the race late January, State Sen. Harris also supported Kelly in her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat and stood beside her on stage during tonight’s acceptance speech.
“I think the best candidate won tonight,” he said, noting he and Kelly share similar views on gun control and job creation. “The people of the 2nd Congressional District have a champion who’s going to fight hard to bring resources back to the district.”
One voter, Jason Dansby, 36, said he didn’t trust any of the other candidates’ positions on gun violence, having once been personally affected by it.
“She seems genuine,” he said of Kelly. Dansby, a lifelong resident of Flossmoor, said his best friend fell victim to Illinois’ gun violence three years ago.
“I was looking for a candidate with substance,” he said. “If we made it harder for criminals to get guns, I’m positive my friend would still be alive.”
In an interview following her acceptance speech, Kelly referred to the gun control issue in Illinois as a “multi-faceted problem, that’s going to take multi-faceted solutions.”
She called for more access to jobs, after school programs, mental health facilities and mentoring programs.
“Yes, people are frustrated,” she said. “They want to feel safe in their neighborhoods, this is an urban, suburban and rural district, but no matter where you live you want to feel safe.”