Robin Kelly handily won the Illinois 2nd Congressional District's primary election Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee in the race to replace disgraced Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., all but confirming she will be heading to Washington.
The former State Representative and Cook County administrator won the special primary with 54 percent of the vote in the crowded race, according to WGN, with 306 of the district's 545 precincts reporting. The Associated Press has also called the race for Kelly.
Now, Kelly is expected to coast to an easy victory in the April 9 special general election, thanks to the district leaning overwhelmingly Democratic.
Kelly's victory speech focused on gun control, which emerged as a key issue leading up to the Tuesday primary.
"You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation," Kelly said Tuesday, per her prepared remarks. "A message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end. And their days of scaring Congress into submission on gun control are coming to a close."
New York City's staunchly anti-gun mayor Michael Bloomberg played a big role in the Illinois race. The Bloomberg-backed Independence USA PAC blasted Halvorson in a series of ads for her support of the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg's super PAC spent over $2 million on pro-Kelly ads in the race.
In a Tuesday statement, Bloomberg called Kelly's win "an important victory for common sense leadership on gun violence, a problem that plagues the whole nation."
"And it's the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change from their representatives in Washington -- not business as usual," Bloomberg continued. "As Congress considers the President's gun package, voters in Illinois have sent a clear message: we need common sense gun legislation now. Now it's up to Washington to act."
CREDO Super PAC also supported Kelly and targeted Halvorson over her gun control positions. Becky Bond, the super PAC's president, said in a statement Tuesday that Halvorson was "crushed" at the polls over the issue.
“Debbie Halvorson’s A+ rating from the NRA is what torpedoed her front-runner status," Bond said in the statement. "This election should serve as a warning to all candidates and elected leaders who vote with the NRA instead of their constituents -- you will be held accountable by the voters come Election Day.”
For her part, Halvorson said it was clear Bloomberg's super PAC was influential in the election, the Associated Press reports.
According to ABC Chicago, low voter turnout in the election was due to a snow and sleet storm that rocked road conditions and made for hazardous travel by midday.
A spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners told the Chicago Tribune earlier Tuesday that the turnout was among the lowest seen in decades.
In the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Donne Trotter dropped from the race after being arrested at O'Hare for bringing an unloaded gun through security. The Illinois lawmaker was considered by many at the time to be the frontrunner in the race.
Despite receiving a high-profile endorsement from the influential Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (who passed over Kelly, her one-time staffer), state Sen. Toi Hutchinson dropped from the race just weeks before the primary. In the days before her departure, anti-gun super PACs had targeted Hutchinson as well as Halvorson.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't endorse any candidate, according to DNAinfo Chicago, only saying the victor had to be a part of "Team Chicago" in Congress.
Jackson Jr. resigned last fall from Congress ahead of his guilty plea, earlier this month, to charges that he and his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, colluded to illegally spend $750,000 of campaign contributions on personal items.
Prior to his resignation, Jackson had been on medical leave while he received treatment for bipolar disorder at Mayo Clinic. Prior to that, he was handily reelected over Halvorson in a March 2011 primary, capturing 71 percent of the vote over his rival.
Illinois' 2nd District includes the city's Far South Side as well as parts of the city's south suburbs in Cook, Will and Kankakee counties.