Democrat Robin Kelly steamrolls convicted felon in special election, vows to ‘take on the NRA’
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporters April 9, 2013 8:03PM
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Updated: May 11, 2013 6:43AM
With the parents of slain 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton beside her, Democrat Robin Kelly vowed to “take on the NRA,” in Congress after sailing to victory Tuesday night in a congressional district represented for nearly two decades by the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr.
Kelly, 56, of south suburban Matteson easily won the district that stretches from Chicago’s South Side to Will and Kankakee counties, officially starting a new chapter in the beleaguered, scandal-ridden 2nd Congressional District.
She immediately promised to continue the fight for gun control — a crusade that helped catapult her to victory.
“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,” Kelly said at a victory party in a Matteson hotel. “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.”
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting across the sprawling district, Kelly trounced her Republican opponent, winning 71 percent to 22 percent of the vote against Paul McKinley, a self-claimed reformed convicted felon who wanted to invigorate struggling neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs.
The vote Tuesday night was largely a formality after Kelly won a more contentious Democratic primary in February. The special election was scheduled after Jackson resigned from his office last November. Jackson, along with his wife, resigned Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), pleaded guilty in February after admitting they looted Jesse Jackson Jr.’s congressional campaign fund.
Kelly surfaced as the strongest candidate with gun control history, attracting the interest of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His Super-Pac, Independence USA, poured $2.2 million in to attack other candidates in TV ads as well as to support candidate Kelly.
On Election Night, she didn’t forget the issue that put her on the national map.
Giving her election speech with Hadiya’s parents was designed to be a testament to her continued focus on gun violence. The 15-year-old Chicago student slain earlier this year has become a national symbol of the toll of shootings.
“I am awed and inspired by the strength of families like the Pendletons and, unfortunately, far too many others, who are working to turn tragedy into triumph,” Kelly said. “Together, we grieved, but we never gave up. We never lost hope, and we never stopped fighting. And we never will.”
Minutes before the polls closed on Tuesday, McKinley, 54, said he believed he was on a road to victory.
“We’re expecting to win this election, yes ma’am,” said McKinley, dismissing the notion that Kelly was heavily favored in a district that’s largely Democratic.
McKinley squeaked through the GOP primary, winning over several other Republicans. He ran on a platform of redemption, having served time in prison for robbery and assault.
“I certainly believe in the redemption story, because if ever there was a story of redemption, it’s me. You can only redeem yourself through Christ Jesus,” McKinley said. “Somewhere between the devil and God — is me.”