CHICAGO (AP) — A well-known Illinois state senator dropped her bid Sunday for the U.S. House seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr., narrowing the field and consolidating key support behind another Democrat in a race where gun control has emerged as a central issue.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, targeted in recent days by critical anti-gun campaign ads funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political action committee, said she was leaving the race and swinging her support to former state Rep. Robin Kelly. The major shake-up came with just nine days to go before the Feb. 26 primary.
Hutchinson's move reflected the sharp divisions over the gun control issue, but also appeared to be in line with efforts to consolidate support for one of the many black candidates in the black-majority district. Community leaders had expressed concerns that the black vote could be split, thus boosting the chances of former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, a white candidate whom Jackson defeated in last year's primary battle.
"I am simply unwilling to risk playing a role going forward that could result in dividing our community at time a when we need unity more than ever," Hutchinson said Sunday in a written statement. "In the wake of horrendous gun related crimes all across our country, I agree with Robin that we need to stand together to fight gun violence."
Bloomberg's super PAC, Independence USA, has run ads in the district that target Hutchinson for her past opposition to tougher gun restrictions — one of the campaign's most pressing issues along with economic hardships such as joblessness and foreclosures.
In a district encompassing parts of Chicago's South Side that have been deeply affected by gun violence, Hutchinson campaigned on more moderate views, saying the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., brought about a change of heart.