When Kelly heads to Washington she will face other challenges. She'll be taking over after Jackson, a nearly 17-year incumbent with a spot on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Despite Jackson's legal problems at the end of his career — he was under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich — he brought home close to $1 billion in federal money to the district. He also had strong ties with community leaders and a family legacy. His wife was a former Chicago City Council member, and he's the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Kelly said she's ready for the challenge and had already considered where to set up constituent offices in the district that overlaps with some of her old legislative district. Kelly served two terms as a representative in the Illinois House.
Voter turnout was low in several parts of the district. Tuesday's special election coincided with municipal elections — not including Chicago, which elected its mayor and City Council in 2011. Early estimates for city precincts were roughly 8 percent with an anticipated 12 percent by day's end. Election officials said turnout was expected to be higher than the 2009 special election to replace Rahm Emanuel, who left Congress to be President Obama's chief of staff. In that year, roughly 10 percent of city voters went to the polls.
Turnout was higher in the suburbs, particularly areas with contested municipal elections.
Jackson, who has stayed out of the public eye since his medical leave last summer, appeared in federal court in February, where his wife Sandi Jackson also pleaded guilty. He faces up to 57 months — more than four years — in prison and a fine, under a plea deal with prosecutors.