Rep. Robin KellyIn a stinging rebuke to the NRA, Robin Kelly, a former Illinois state legislator, won the Democratic primary to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress, beating former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who was supported by the NRA.

The race was seen as a proxy battle between the NRA and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new super PAC, Independence US, which spent $2.2 million on the race to fulfill Bloomberg’s pledge to provide candidates around the country with the financial resources to take on the powerful NRA.

In Chicago, a city that has been wracked by gun violence, Halvorson, who is white, tried to make the claim that outsiders were coming in to steal the race. And when several African-American candidates dropped out and threw their support behind Kelly, who is black, Halvorson said she was going up against Chicago’s “machine” — which is an indirect way of implying some type of corruption was afoot.

With a low turnout of about 15 percent — abetted by a snowstorm and the lack of any other races on the ballot — Kelly won easily, gaining 52 percent of the vote to Halvorson’s 25 percent. Alderman Anthony Beale came in third with 11 percent. Kelly will take on the Republican primary winner in the April 9 general election. Fewer than 25 votes separated Republican candidates Paul McKinley, a felon, and businessman Eric Wallace.

“You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation,” Kelly told supporters in a Matteson hotel ballroom. “A message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end. To every leader in the fight for gun control ready to work with President Obama and Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel to stop this senseless violence, thank you for your leadership and thank you for your courage.”

Asked about the support from Mayor Bloomberg, Kelly told the Associated Press, “No one complains when the NRA was spending big money.”

After the win, Bloomberg issued a statement, saying, “This is an important victory for common sense leadership on gun violence, a problem that plagues the whole nation. And it’s the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change from their representatives in Washington — not business as usual. 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.”

Halvorson urged fellow Democrats to support Kelly in the general election. She opposes an assault weapons ban, and said she couldn’t beat Bloomberg’s money.

“We all know how rough it was for me to have to run an election against someone who spent ($2.2) million against me,” Halvorson said at a Homewood restaurant. “Every 7½ minutes there was a commercial.”

“It shows, unfortunately, you can’t go up against that big money … That’s the problem with super Pacs,” said Halvorson, who lost to Jackson in a primary last year. “There is nothing I could have done differently.”

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