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February 28, 2013

Illinois congressional race shows Bloomberg clout

(Continued)

"He just spent over $2 million to hold arguably the deepest blue seat in the U.S. House, in a race where the NRA spent zero and had no involvement," NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox said.

In the Chicago area, the super PAC's negative ads blanketed the airways for weeks. They targeted former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who opposes an assault-weapons ban, and pointed out her previous high ratings from the NRA. Even though Halvorson opposed a ban, she supports gun registration and universal background checks. She accused Bloomberg of trying to buy an election, something other candidates echoed.

Kelly, who has been a longtime anti-gun candidate, said she has never been in touch with Bloomberg. Such contact is forbidden by election law. She said her message had been the same since she ramped up campaigning in early December.

"We didn't veer from that strategy," she said. "The voters put me in."

Still, some Democratic candidates in politically mixed, rural districts would probably prefer not to have Bloomberg's help.

Democrat Rep. Rick Nolan represents an economically challenged, mostly rural stretch of rural northern Minnesota, a popular hunting destination. He won re-election by more than 10 percentage points last year after NRA leaders campaigned heavily against him in the closing days of the campaign. Nolan, a lifelong hunter, has supported gun control and said he would back an assault-weapons ban in light of last year's mass shootings.

If Bloomberg's group were to draw even more attention to Nolan's position on guns, the effort could hurt him politically, said Steve Johnson, a senior Nolan aide.

"In districts where the gun issue cuts across people with deeply held views," Johnson said, "it becomes more difficult to talk about jobs and the economy when that debate competes for center stage."

 

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