CHICAGO – In a race where guns quickly dominated the debate, gun control advocate Robin Kelly clinched the Democratic nomination for Illinois 2nd Congressional District general election Tuesday by more than 50 percent of the vote.
The race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. has not been brief, or clean. As many as two dozen aspirants entered a crowded field back in November 2012, when Jackson Jr. resigned from his post after months of absence, citing health issues and acknowledging a federal probe.
But on the night of her win, Kelly rose to the top of the group. Preceded by a video montage of campaign messages, news reports, debates and campaign stops, Kelly walked on stage to the tune of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” and loud cheers of supporters yelling her name.
In her victory speech, Kelly chose to shift attention to those indirectly affected by Chicago’s unique crime issue: families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Behind her stood a line of parents whose kids have been killed as a result of gun violence, each one holding photo of their family member as they listened to Kelly, who pledged to help rid Chicago of the issue.
“We won’t stop fighting until gun violence is no longer a nightly feature on the evening news,” Kelly told a room of more than 200 people in a South Suburban Holiday Inn hotel Tuesday evening.
“We, the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. The families of the fallen, the neighbors living in fear. We are united in our mission to end the killing in our streets. We will keep standing with our president. 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,” Kelly said. “We will do whatever it takes to end this epidemic of gun violence, once and for all.
Chicago has gained national attention because of its crime issue lately, after teen honor student Hadiya Pendleton was shot dead just one week after she and classmates performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. First Lady Michelle Obama attended Pendleton’s funeral, and days later, the president visited Chicago and spoke on the city’s gun issue on a post-State of the Union tour.
Kelly clinching the Democratic nod is multifaceted. This was the first major race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives since the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six educators dead.
Kelly has lead the pack on advocating for gun rights issues, but in the latter days of her campaign she caught the eye of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose political action committee Independence USA spent $2 million both on advertising endorsing Kelly and against another major candidate, former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson.
“I was working very hard before he ever got involved,” Kelly told reporters after giving her short speech to supporters. She’s consistently denied asking for Bloomberg’s support.
Shortly after the race was called, Bloomberg, who is a staunch anti-gun advocate and pledged his support to any nationwide measure matching his goals, issued a statement saying, “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.”