Candidate backed by Bloomberg wins Democratic primary in Chicago
February 26th, 2013
09:20 PM ET
1 year ago

Candidate backed by Bloomberg wins Democratic primary in Chicago

(CNN) - Illinois state Rep. Robin Kelly, who was boosted by support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, won a primary election in Chicago Tuesday, putting her closer to filling the vacant seat previously held by disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Her chief rival, Democratic State lawmaker Debbie Halvorson, conceded the race shortly after 8 p.m. local time.

There were more than a dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, where the winner needed a simple plurality. The district includes parts of Chicago's South Side and has long been dominated by Democrats, making Kelly the likely frontrunner in the April 9 general election.

Illinois' second congressional district was until recently represented by Democrat Jackson, who pleaded guilty in federal court last week to using campaign funds for personal use.

The election was the first congressional contest since December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which put gun control back into the national political spotlight. The district includes some areas hit hard by the increased gun violence in Chicago. Some 506 people were murdered in the city last year, according to local crime statistics, up from 433 in 2011. January already set a bloody record, with some 43 people killed.

Halvorson has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, and opposes an assault weapons ban. She was the target of negative ads from Independence USA, a political action committee supported by Bloomberg. In total, the group spent more than $2 million on the race.

Kelly, on the other hand, is a strong supporter of gun control efforts and received the backing of Bloomberg’s organization.

"This is an important victory for common sense leadership on gun violence, a problem that plagues the whole nation,” Bloomberg said in a statement Tuesday night. “And it's the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change from their representatives in Washington - not business as usual.”

In her concession speech, Halvorson said she was ready to support Kelly in the general election, but that the overwhelming influence of outside groups like Bloomberg’s was unfortunate.

“There was $2.3 million dollars minimum spent against me,” she said. “Someone timed it. Every seven and a half minutes there was a commercial.”

“That’s the way it is. I can’t help it,” she added later.

Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst and reporter for the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said there is “no question the New York City mayor's multi-million dollar investment has had an outsized impact in the race.”

"The Independence PAC has been carpet bombing the district with expensive broadcast TV ads boosting Kelly, and Kelly is the only candidate with enough money to go up on cable, also with an ad touting her record on gun control,” Taylor continued.

Halvorson is white, while Kelly is black. Another black candidate, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, dropped out of the race two weeks before primary day, as she came under attack by the commercials from Bloomberg's PAC, but also amid concerns that she and Kelly would split the African American vote.

Gun control has long mattered in Chicago elections and the Sandy Hook shootings have put the issue back in the spotlight nationally. The big question is whether the controversial issue will continue to dominate as next year's midterm elections draw closer.

"While it's very easy for a special election to become an incubator for the national issue of the day, it is less clear the issue will resonate on a national scale in 2014," adds Taylor.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

An earlier version of this story erroneously reported the number of murders in Chicago last year.


Filed under: Gun rights • Illinois
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. MaryM

    oops NRA, the candidate with the NRA A rating LOST. The times, they are changing.

    February 26, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  2. Bugl3t

    There should be NO pacs, lobbyists or money contributions from anyone (imo) but at the very least, limit the amount and make it have to be INDIVIDUAL. One PERSON (not corporation) one VOTE. Frankly, I think the public airwaves should be required to allow a set number of long debates where all participate, including online rating, and NO commercials allowed. PERIOD.
    Take the money out of politics and it might actually function. Politicians wouldn't get elected and then start campaigning for the next election.
    I'm glad the gun control candidate won the primary runoff. Good luck.

    February 26, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  3. NickD

    As a Southern Illinois Democrat that supports conceal carry, I find it diosappointing that a outside money has once again influenced Illinois politics.

    If the Dems want to win in the future they need to understand where most of the nation is on the issues today.

    February 26, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  4. Deb in MT

    Halvorson was supposed to be a shoo-in: guess her A rating from the NRA didn't help her much.....

    Could be some residual anger from the way the NRA challenged what used to be some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation, getting those laws tossed out by the courts 2 years ago. The opponents of the courts' actions predicted a bloodbath would occur as a result: looks like they were right.

    Annnd, here come the gun fetishists..1...2...3

    (Note: not referring to sensible gun owners who understand that there are some common sense gun safety mechanisms we could all support.)

    February 26, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  5. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Bloomberg is another long time republican who has found the current day republican party too extreme and fanatical for him, and has consequently been backing more rational candidates.

    February 26, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  6. Kyle

    As long as the democratic political machine exists in Chicago, these poor people on the south side are SOL

    February 26, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  7. Ricardo Martinez

    I am glad that once in a while you hear something good has happened. It is time we stood up to the idiots leading the NRA, we must not forget the Children and all those innocent souls. Thank you Mr. Bloomberg.

    February 26, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  8. Demo

    Oh yes!' ! Obama, Kerry, Hagel and Kelly!

    February 27, 2013 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  9. Bob

    Good! Get the picture Debbie and La Pierre? And, thank you so much, elegant and intelligent Mayor Bloomberg.

    February 27, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |