Gun control advocate nominated for US seat

2013-02-27 13:46
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Chicago - A former Illinois legislator who favours an assault weapons ban captured the Democratic nomination on Tuesday in the race to replace disgraced ex-US Representative Jesse Jackson jnr, after a campaign dominated by gun-control issues in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre.

Ex-state Rep. Robin Kelly's nomination all but assures that she'll sail through the 9 April general election and head to Washington, because the heavily minority Chicago-area district is overwhelmingly Democratic.

The Republican nominee was also chosen on Tuesday night.

The special primary election was the first for a seat in the House of Representatives since the 14 December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, left 20 children and six educators dead.

From a crowded field of Democratic contenders, Kelly emerged early as a leader on gun-control issues - a central theme during the race - which helped her win support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super political action committee, Independence USA.
 
It poured more than $2m into the race by airing anti-gun ads supporting Kelly, who favours an assault weapons ban and other gun measures proposed by President Barack Obama in response to the school massacre.

‘Outside money’ plays a role

The ads targeted another front-runner, former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who is against banning assault weapons.

The result was a setback for the influential gun-rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, which gave its highest "A'' rating to Halvorson and a failing "F'' rating to Kelly.

"We worked really, really hard," Kelly, a former state representative from Matteson, a south Chicago suburb, told The Associated Press. "We were on the right side of the issue and our message resonated."

She defended the financial support from Bloomberg, saying: "No one complains when the NRA was spending big money."

In her victory speech, Kelly vowed to fight for gun control until "gun violence is no longer a nightly feature on the evening news."

Halvorson conceded on Tuesday evening, saying the outside money certainly played a roll.

"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."

‘Common sense leadership’

Bloomberg has been leading an anti-gun campaign backed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition he started that now has more than 800 mayors from around the US.

After casting her ballot in the snowy weather that pelted the region on Tuesday, Halvorson had warned that if the ads were successful Bloomberg would try to "buy seats" across the country.

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.

His PAC, launched weeks before the November election, has spent more than $12m nationwide backing candidates supporting gun control measures.

Meanwhile, the primary race among four lesser known Republican candidates was too close to call.

Guns were a leading issue at candidate forums and email blasts from candidates, even as Jackson's legal saga played out in court and frustrated voters who've seen two other congressmen in the office leave under an ethical or legal cloud.

Jackson resigned in November, after a months-long medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues, then pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges that accused him of misspending $750 000 in campaign money on lavish personal items, including a Rolex watch and fur coats.

Jackson's exit created a rare opening in a district where he was first elected in 1995.

The primary featured 14 Democrats, including former US Rep. Mel Reynolds, who held the seat in the 1990s but served prison time after being convicted of fraud and for having sex with an underage campaign volunteer.

- AP
Read more on:    nra  |  michael bloomberg  |  us  |  gun control
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