Kelly steamrolls in 2nd District; vows to ‘take on NRA’
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND MITCH DUDEK Sun-Times Media April 9, 2013 11:29PM
Robin Kelly checks her speech Tuesday night in her hotel room before her victory celebration in the 2nd Congressional District contest. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: May 11, 2013 6:49AM
Democrat Robin Kelly breezed to victory Tuesday night, officially setting the stage for a new chapter in the scandal-ridden 2nd Congressional District that was represented for nearly two decades by the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr.
Kelly, 56, of Matteson, easily won over a weak Republican opponent and four other candidates in the heavily Democratic district that stretches from Chicago’s South Side through Will County to Kankakee County.
She immediately vowed to continue the fight for gun control — an issue that helped catapult her to victory in the Feb. 26 special primary election that was the key election.
The outcome Tuesday quickly became apparent. Early returns showed precincts from the Chicago portion of the district, where the great majority of its population is, giving her 90 percent of the vote against Republican Paul McKinley, a felon.
With 248 of 263 precincts reporting, Kelly was leading McKinley with 79 percent of the vote to 14 percent.
Kelly gave her victory speech with the parents of the Hadiya Pendleton behind her. Hadiya, a 15-year-old Chicago student slain earlier this year, has become a national symbol of the toll of gun violence.
As Kelly spoke, a montage of news clips and campaign videos play on a jumbo screen behind the podium.
Tuesday’s election was required after Jackson resigned from office in November. He had been away from Congress since mid-June, while being treated for depression related to bipolar disorder, but won re-election Nov. 6 despite not campaigning.
He resigned two weeks later, was indicted and pleaded guilty in February to federal conspiracy and fraud charges for using about $750,000 in campaign money for personal expenses over several years.
Kelly surfaced as the strongest candidate, emphasizing gun control as a major issue in the district and attracting the interest of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His superPAC, Independence USA, poured $2.2 million into assisting her campaign, attacking other candidates in TV commercials.
Kelly didn’t forget that history on Election Night.
“To those who say that we won’t be able to make Congress do anything on gun control, who think this Tea Party Congress can’t be beaten, I’ve got two words: Watch us,” she told her supporters. “Watch us beat the odds again. Watch us take on the NRA, the Tea Party and anyone else standing in the way of our safety.”
Minutes before the polls closed Tuesday, McKinley, 54, insisted he was likely to win the race. He dismissed the notion that Kelly was heavily favored.
“I have a 51 percent chance to win this election,” he said, attributing that figure to “my studies and talking to different people.”
McKinley squeaked through the GOP primary, winning over several opponents. He ran on a platform of redemption, having served time in prison for robbery and assault.