CHICAGO (Reuters) - Gun control supporter Robin Kelly, a Democrat, easily won election to a Chicago-area U.S. House seat on Tuesday, taking a spot left vacant by the resignation of former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who pleaded guilty in February to misusing campaign funds.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Kelly had 80 percent of the votes in the suburbs and 92 percent of the votes in the city, according to the city and county board of elections, easily defeating her nearest opponent, Republican Paul McKinley.
Kelly, a former Illinois state representative, was supported in the Democratic primary by more than $2 million in television ads highlighting the gun control issue bankrolled by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Winning the Democratic primary is nearly a guarantee of winning the election in the heavily Democratic district.
“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,” Kelly said in prepared remarks. Kelly was referring to the National Rifle Association, which strongly opposes most forms of gun control.
McKinley’s campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment and the candidate’s website and Facebook page had no recent updates.
The Chicago primary 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.
Kelly 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.
Pendleton’s parents were at Kelly’s victory party Tuesday evening.
Jackson resigned last November citing health problems and pleaded guilty in federal court in February to using campaign funds for personal enrichment.
Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and Renita D. Young; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker