Updated: April 2, 2013 6:34AM
Some are expressing surprise at how easily Robin Kelly won Tuesday’s Democratic primary election in the 2nd Congressional District, but we’re not sure why. Kelly always was among the top three candidates and was greatly aided by $2.2 million from a super PAC financed by New York City’s billionaire mayor that buried her top two opponents.
Taking advantage of all that cash, Kelly put together a well-organized campaign that made gun control the main issue and portrayed her chief foes as supporters of the National Rifle Association’s agenda.
Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, of Crete, was put on the defensive on the guns issue and was unable to overcome the huge amounts of money and ground troops on Kelly’s side. She fell back steadily in the final weeks, and state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) dropped out. Some political heavyweights then publicly backed Kelly, and at that point the only question seemed to be Kelly’s victory margin (58 percent to 19 percent for Halvorson).
The election was the latest disturbing example of the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 ruling that overturned long-standing campaign finance law to allow unlimited political contributions by corporations and unions. It spawned super political action committees like the one that bought the 2nd District election. Kelly might have won without the avalanche of cash — she did raise a good deal on her own — but we’ll never know.
If she wins April 9, as expected, against the Republican candidate, a felon who served 12 years in prison, Kelly must confront tough problems in a district that’s much larger in size and more diverse than before. It remains predominantly black, with most of her constituents concentrated on Chicago’s South Side and in the south suburbs where there are too few jobs, too little business development, too many foreclosed homes and too much crime.
Kelly must address these issues while dealing with the district’s legacy of misbehavior and criminal conduct by its last three congressmen. We wish her luck.