But McKinley isn't so sure it's in the bag for Kelly. The Chicago man — who doesn't advocate for gun control — has focused his campaign on how his integration back into society after serving nearly 20 years in prison for robbery and other charges has made him ready to help others.
"I have a 50-50 chance like my opponent has," he said. "There is nothing written in stone that she's supposed to win."
Independent candidates Curtiss Llong Bey, Marcus Lewis and Elizabeth Pahlke are also running, as is Green Party candidate LeAllen M. Jones.
Whoever wins will face extra scrutiny on ethics.
The three previous congressmen in the Chicago-area district left office under an ethical cloud.
Until his resignation, Jackson remained under a House Ethics Committee investigation over ties to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. His predecessor, Mel Reynolds, left office in 1995 and was convicted of fraud and having sex with a minor. Before that, Gus Savage faced allegations of sexual misconduct with a Peace Corps worker while on a congressional visit overseas.
"There's a lot of hope (among voters) because she's had a pretty clean record so far," said Don Rose, a longtime political consultant in Chicago. "It'll be a while before she can become a leader but it's a matter of what she does."
Others are just skeptical of any new congressman's ability in Washington.
Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin, who also backed Jackson, said he's become frustrated with partisan politics and with the monthslong absence of a congressman in the Chicago-area district that has large pockets of unemployment and poverty.
"He had some influence," Griffin said. "When a freshman person goes in dealing with guys who are well-grounded and unwilling to negotiate, nothing's going to transfer. The fact is that she is almost facing an insurmountable task."
The district's last special election was 1995 when Jackson won office.