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Debbie Halvorson, NRA-Favored Candidate, Supports Greater Gun Control Measures

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NRA DEBBIE HALVORSON
Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (seen here on March 20, 2012) is one of many candidates hoping to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’'s congressional seat. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File) | AP

Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), a onetime close ally of the National Rifle Association, is backing away from the controversial gun group, according to an email she sent to supporters Wednesday.

"I have not lobbied the NRA for an endorsement," Halvorson promised supporters in the email. The former Illinois congresswoman is currently vying for retired Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s former congressional seat.

She continued, "I support President Obama and Vice President Biden's efforts in getting all sides to the table."

Halvorson, who holds a slight lead in a crowded Democratic primary field according to one poll, also wrote that she supports requiring universal background checks and firearm registration, eliminating the gun show loophole and imposing harsher penalties for straw buyers.

Halvorson's email comes just one day after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC, Independence USA PAC, released an ad criticizing her record on gun violence prevention and NRA support. "In the race to replace Jessie Jackson, watch out for Debbie Halvorson," the ad warned. "Against comprehensive background checks, against banning deadly assault weapons, against banning high capacity ammunition clips ... When it comes to preventing gun violence, she gets an F."

In previous congressional races, Halvorson had been endorsed by the NRA's Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) and received an "A" rating from the organization, marking her as a "solidly pro-gun candidate."

"The NRA-PVF is endorsing Debbie Halvorson because she has defended the Second Amendment freedom of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen in Illinois and across American," Chris Cox, chairman of the victory fund, said in a 2010 news release.

Halvorson's current gun control stance is at odds with statements made Wednesday by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he opposes expanding background checks and closing the gun show loophole.

Illinois' 2nd Congressional District, where Halvorson is running, is heavily dominated by Democrats. It also contains areas plagued by gun violence, including Chicago's South Side, making her NRA ties potentially problematic.

Now distancing herself from the NRA, Halvorson appears to focus on rebuilding "economically distressed neighborhoods" that are susceptible to higher rates of violent crimes.

"We need to revitalize neighborhoods by creating good paying jobs and urging kids to stay in school to reduce violent crime, including crime committed with guns," Halvorson wrote in the Wednesday email. "It's time for an honest conversation, a conversation that I'm ready to lead when I'm sent back to Washington."

To win the vacant seat, which Jackson held for nearly 17 years, Halvorson must take the Feb. 26 primary and the April 6 general election.

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