CHICAGO (AP) — The newly elected Democratic nominee to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. vowed to become a leader in the fight for federal gun control and directly challenged the National Rifle Association in her victory speech.
But it remains to be seen if Robin Kelly's primary win Tuesday night in the Chicago-area district, aided by a $2 million ad campaign funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC, would fuel the national debate.
Kelly, a former state representative, emerged early as a voice for gun control in the truncated primary season after Jackson resigned in November. She gained huge momentum as Bloomberg's super PAC poured money into anti-gun television ads in her favor that blasted one of her Democratic opponents, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, for receiving a previous high rating from the NRA. Kelly supports an assault weapons ban, while Halvorson does not.
"We were on the right side of the issue and our message resonated," Kelly told The Associated Press shortly after her win.
Kelly promised in her victory speech later Tuesday night to fight "until gun violence is no longer a nightly feature on the evening news" and directly addressed the NRA, saying "their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end."
Bloomberg called Kelly's win an important victory for "common sense leadership" on gun violence, saying in a statement that voters nationwide are demanding change from their leaders.
But other Democratic front-runners accused Bloomberg of buying a race and interfering in the heavily urban district that also includes some Chicago suburbs and rural areas.
"It shows, unfortunately, you can't go up against that big money. ...That's the problem with super PACs," Halvorson, who unsuccessfully challenged Jackson in a primary last year, told the AP. "There is nothing I could have done differently."