Gun control supporter backed by New York mayor wins Chicago vote

CHICAGO Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:45pm EST

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (C) departs the U.S. District Federal Courthouse in Washington February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (C) departs the U.S. District Federal Courthouse in Washington February 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Gun control supporter Robin Kelly won the Democratic primary for a Chicago area U.S. House seat on Tuesday, propelled by more than $2 million in television ads highlighting the guns issue bankrolled by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Kelly, a former Illinois state representative, said in her victory speech that the vote was a setback for the powerful gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association.

"The voters sent a message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end. And their days of scaring Congress into submission on gun control are coming to a close," Kelly said to cheers from supporters.

The NRA fiercely defends the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution setting out the right to bear arms.

The Chicago special election was the first U.S. electoral test since gun control rose to the top of the political agenda after a gunman killed 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.

Since that massacre, which took the lives of 20 school children, President Barack Obama has pushed Congress to pass tighter gun restrictions and Bloomberg has vowed to use some of his fortune to help battle the political influence of the NRA.

The special election was to fill the seat of indicted former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr, who resigned in November citing health problems and pleaded guilty in federal court last week to using campaign funds for personal enrichment.

Jackson was a reliable vote in Congress for gun control. Until Bloomberg elbowed into the race, polls had shown that the special election might be won by Debbie Halvorson, a former congresswoman who had an A+ rating from the NRA and opposed an assault weapons ban.

Bloomberg blanketed Chicago television with ads on the gun issue, attacking Halvorson and endorsing Kelly in the final days of the campaign.

"He turned this election into a referendum on the NRA," said Chicago Democratic political analyst Don Rose.

A little over an hour after the polls closed, Halvorson called Kelly to concede defeat, saying that Bloomberg's television ads had overwhelmed her campaign.

"There was $2.3 million minimum spent against me," Halvorson told supporters. "That's the way it is. I can't help it."

The Illinois affiliate of the NRA had asked its members to vote for Halvorson.

Kelly, 56, highlighted Chicago's rash of murders from a surge in gang violence ravaging poor neighborhoods. The shootings have claimed the lives of dozens of young people, including Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student who was killed just over a week after she performed at Obama's inauguration.

Bloomberg issued a statement immediately after Kelly was declared the winner, saying that the Illinois vote showed Americans want change in Washington.

"As Congress considers the president's gun package, voters in Illinois have sent a clear message: We need common sense gun legislation now. Now it's up to Washington to act," he said.

Political analyst Rose said the Chicago district was receptive to Bloomberg's anti-gun message because it is heavily Democratic, and because of the plague of local gun violence. He said it was too soon to tell if the outcome would have national implications.

With nearly all the vote counted, Kelly had about 52 percent to 24 percent for Halvorson. More than a dozen other candidates, some of whom had withdrawn from the race but remained on the ballot, split the remainder of the Democratic vote.

Turnout was light because of a snowstorm that hit the Chicago area on Tuesday, making travel treacherous.

The winner of the Democratic primary is likely to be elected to the seat in the general election on April 9 because the district is Democratic. Three candidates were in a close race for the Republican nomination to face Kelly in April.

(Writing by Greg McCune, editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (4)
Moondogblue wrote:
Sad day for the folks in Chicago. Until someone is willing to step up to the plate, take on gangs, and lock up violent criminals, the carnage will continue. Gun control hasn’t worked and isn’t going to work, and young people are being killed every day. How bad is it going to have to get and for how long before voters can see through the facade? Gun control won’t save them,and neither will Bloomberg and Obama. The smart ones will just vote with their feet and move out.

Feb 26, 2013 11:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Blossom89 wrote:
As if this were any surprise in a district that was overwhelmingly Dem to begin with.

Feb 27, 2013 12:32am EST  --  Report as abuse
jaham wrote:
@moondogblue…you got half of it right. More gun control in Chicago certainly won’t work but neither will locking up criminals more criminals as we already incarcerate more, per capita, than any other nation.

What we need to do is legalize drugs and remove the profit margin from their nefarious industries so that these communities are forced, organically, to apply higher value to an education, entrepreneurship and the like.

Feb 27, 2013 9:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
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