Gun control advocate Robyn Kelly won the Democratic primary in the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old House seat, setting her up as a shoe-in to spend the next two years on Capitol Hill. Or in the words of the Associated Press, "The nomination all but assures that she'll sail through the April 9 general election and head to Washington, because the district is overwhelmingly Democratic." It also sets Michael Bloomberg up as a kingmaker — finally! — a man whose millions can sway political races and decide the fates of many. At least, according to Robyn Kelly's opponent it does.
The race to replace Jackson won widespread intrigue not only for the dramatic circumstances of the former congressman's departure but also for Bloomberg's unique interest. The New York City mayor turned his gaze towards the Illinois House race after the Sandy Hook shootings in December and the wave of debate over gun control that followed. Kelly is in favor of gun control in all the ways that Bloomberg likes, and his Independence USA super PAC sent over $2 million her way. Much of the money was spent on anti-gun ads that ran throughout Chicago in Kelly's name.
Former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who is very much pro-gun, did not appreciate the East Coast money swooping in to steal the attention and, she says, the race. Halvorson tacitly accused Bloomberg of "buying seats" when she cast her vote on Tuesday and later said, "We all know how rough it was to run an election against someone who spent $2.3 million against me." Halvorson did get a late bump in support from the National Rifle Association, but even the country's most powerful lobby could only provide her with some pamphlets. With 47 percent of the vote counted, Halvorson had just 17 percent. Kelly had 57 percent.
Well, them's the breaks, Debbie. Bloomberg is certainly not going to let off the gas in his mission to fight firearms with political spending across the country. Kelly's victory is a big one for him, too — not only because it's the first race since Sandy Hook but also because it's Chicago, which has one of the country's largest rates of gun violence. We shouldn't expect the Supreme Court to swoop in too soon to put a stop to super PACs and large contributions. Last week we learned that the nation's highest court will hear McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case that stands to do away with federal limits on campaign-finance altogether.
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By the time that happens, Kelly will probably be all moved into her new office on Capitol Hill, running around and making laws and doing what members of Congress do. Bloomberg will be spewing cash at whatever anti-gun campaign he can find. And poor Jesse Jackson Jr., he'll probably be in jail for embezzling $750,000 worth of his own campaign funds.