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Democracy For America officially endorses Robin Kelly for Congress! Kelly’s goals are to pass intelligent gun safety laws, and providing incentives to small businesses to create jobs. Kelly is running in Illinois’ Second.

Robin Kelly for Congress

A look at the 1996 United States Senate campaign between then Democratic U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin and Republican Illinois State Rep. Al Salvi sheds an all-too-familiar light on how the effort to prevent gun violence has become a make-or-break issue for Illinois voters in next Tuesday’s special election to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr’s seat.

After edging out the moderate Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra in the 1996 GOP primary, Al Salvi represented the most appealing, convincing candidate the Republican Party had presented in Illinois and was believed to have a legitimate chance at winning the Senate seat. The young NRA poster boy for Illinois spent his time on the campaign trail asserting the ’94 federal assault weapons ban was “silly,” calling the ’93 Brady Handgun Bill “cosmetic,” and offering to legalize concealed weapons in order to cut crime.

Meanwhile, Salvi’s opponent, then Representative Durbin was actively campaigning for sensible gun violence prevention measures. After co-sponsoring the ’93 Brady Handgun bill and supporting the ’94 assault weapons ban, he told Illinois voters, “We will not be a safer nation, a safer state, if people are carrying guns around shopping malls and restaurants.” Durbin joined forces with President Reagan’s former press secretary and gun-control activist Jim Brady to film a campaign ad that portrayed Salvi as an extremist on gun issues. In a Sunday radio interview just days before the election, Salvi responded by falsely charging that Jim Brady “used to sell” machine guns. Salvi later apologized and conceded, “Turns out that was a different Jim Brady.”

Salvi’s last-minute gaffe and extreme stance on guns proved to fracture the Illinois Republican party and rally Illinois voters around candidates who supported gun violence prevention. In one example, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police opted to support Democratic House candidate Rod Blagojevich over the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep Michael Flanagan, who earlier that year had supported an attempt to repeal the federal assault weapons ban. In his endorsement, the union’s president, Bill Nolan, said, “(It’s) almost a one-issue thing, and that is the guns.”

Salvi’s extreme stance on guns cost him the election. Durbin won the race by a landslide, leading Salvi 57 percent to 40 percent. Durbin acknowledged in his victory speech how important gun violence prevention was to Illinois voters: “I hope this victory tonight is a message that no political official in this state should ever, ever be cowered by the gun extremists.”

Seventeen years later, the gun debate, yet again, takes center stage in the Chicago-area congressional race to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacated seat.

New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a vocal advocate for commonsense gun violence prevention measures, has shown a considerable interest in the first election since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. His super PAC, Independence USA, has already spent $2.1 million in TV ad buys attacking former Congresswoman Halvorson and other candidates who refuse to take a stand on gun violence prevention measures. The Independence USA ad endorses former state Rep. Robin Kelly who released her own video highlighting her support for sensible gun measures, including bans on assault weapons and high capacity gun magazines.

In a race to represent a district severely shaken by gun violence, the movement to prevent gun violence again proves to be a critical issue. If history is any indication of which candidate Illinois voters will elect, Debbie Halvorson’s extremism may cost her.

h/t: Robert Avruch at Think Progress

Rich Miller at Capitol Fax has the scoop:

This just in…
Saturday, Feb 16, 2013

* 8:52 pm - A top source close to Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s congressional campaign confirmed widespread rumors tonight that Hutchinson will likely drop out of the 2nd District special primary race on Sunday.

The reasons are many, including Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to point his massive super PAC right at Hutchinson while backing rival Robin Kelly.

To date, over 5,000 members of this community donated to Robin Kelly’s campaign, helping to raise some $100,000. Daily Kos members make up 85% of her total donors.

There’s less than two weeks until the special election. Debbie Halvorson, rated “A” by the NRA, is spending her time complaining to right-wing media and taking concealed carry lessons.

h/t: Georgia Logothetis at Daily Kos

The flood gates that opened after U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from his seat last November closed on Monday with 22 people filing to represent the 2nd Congressional District.

With the crowded field of 17 Democrats and five Republicans, some candidates were baring their fund-raising credentials to set themselves apart from the pack.

The cadre of candidates is competing in a special primary election set for Feb. 26.

On Monday, onetime state representative Robin Kelly, who resigned from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s staff last month, announced she already raised $200,000 just since December.

Last week, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson announced she raised $130,000 despite December being “traditionally the most difficult fundraising month of the year.” Both Kelly and Hutchinson lauded their fund-raising prowess as a sign of widespread support within the sprawling district that includes the South Side of Chicago, south suburbs and runs down to Kankakee and Will counties.

One-term former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost against Jackson in a primary last year, didn’t disclose her total, saying she hadn’t added up the numbers yet. But Halvorson said she doesn’t have to work as hard at raising money to run ads because she’s already gone through the initial introduction to the district.

“People are very sick and tired of the amount of emails they’re getting from all these candidates. I’ve got the luxury of not having to do that,” Halvorson said on Monday. “We’re able to go back and just shore up … We don’t have to start from scratch where a lot of candidates are in now.”

The wave of candidates interested in the seat came after Jackson resigned from his position in Congress. In his resignation letter, Jackson for the first time admitted he was under federal scrutiny and was in plea negotiations with authorities. Jackson was absent from Congress beginning in June after he said he suffered from bipolar depression.

Longtime political analyst Don Rose said not only will money be important in the race to replace Jackson but how a candidate spends it will be critical.

“There’s no question that fund-raising is important,” he said. “Nobody has a district-wide reputation so they simply [have] to get their message out. Money is a substantial part of the ballgame.”

Rose qualified that, however, pointing out that U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley was far outspent when he ran in a special election in 2009, and he won with about 22 percent of the vote.

Rose said Halvorson is the only candidate to have a district-wide name, having run in the primary and agreed she probably didn’t need to fund raise as much as other candidates.

Other Democrats who have filed by the Monday deadline include Ald. Anthony Beale; ex-con and former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, of Dolton, who was replaced by Jackson; Victor Jonathan (formerly Victor Onafuye), of Country Club Hills, a South Side pastor; Clifford Eagleton, of Harvey, Gregory Haynes, of Lynwood; Charles Rayburn of Dolton; Anthony W. Williams of Dolton; Fatimah Muhammad of Chicago; Ernest Fenton of Markham; John Blyth of Chicago; Larry Pickens of Chicago; Patrick Brutus of Chicago.

Republican candidates are: McAllister, James Taylor Sr. of Bradley; Eric Wallace of Flossmoor; Paul McKinley of Chicago and Beverly Reid of Chicago.

h/t: Chicago Sun Times

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s resignation from Congress leaves his seat in Illinois’s 2nd District open for a special election, and local Democrats are already considering names. 

A top option would be Debbie Halvorson, who represented Illinois’s 11th District for one term, from 2009-11, and lost her bid against Jackson this year when he picked up over 70 percent of the vote in the primary.

Another previous Jackson opponent, Mel Reynolds, who held Jackson’s seat from 1993-95 before him, is a possible contender, according to the Chicago Tribune. Reynolds, however, was convicted for sexual assault and bank fraud in the 90s, and lost his primary bid against Jackson in 2004.

The Chicago Sun Times also reported that former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is considering a run, but Stroger lives outside the district and faced criticism as board president for raising taxes and promoting a family member. He also had a relatively close race against his Republican challenger, despite running in a heavily Democratic county, and came in last in the Democratic primary for the position in 2010.

Other names suggested by the Tribune include state Sens. Toi Hutchinson and Donne Trotter, incoming state Sen. Napoleon Harris, Alds. Anthony Beale from the 9th ward and Will Burns from the 4th ward, former state Reps. David Mille and Robin Kelly, and Sam Adam, Jr., former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attorney.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn must set a date for the election on Monday, but by law, the election must take place within 115 days of Jackson’s resignation, or no later than March 16. 

Local officials have been pushing to make the special election to be held on April 9, with a primary held on Feb. 26, as there are already elections scheduled for those days.

h/t: The Hill