CHICAGO
02/28/2013 01:46 pm ET

Paul McKinley Robin Kelly Showdown: Ex-Con Is GOP Pick In Race To Replace Jesse Jackson Jr.

While Robin Kelly might not be sweating the competition in the April 9 Illinois special election to replace ex-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., her GOP challenger Paul McKinley has one thing she doesn't.

A rap sheet.

"I'm an ex-offender trying to prevent a next offender," McKinley said in one of his several campaign videos.

(Watch Paul McKinley explain his battle against the Democratic "Machine.")

As a convicted felon, McKinley served nearly 20 years in state prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery, the Tribune reports.

While Kelly handily won Tuesday's special primary election in the state's 2nd Congressional District with 54 percent of the vote, McKinley squeaked out a victory over Republican Eric Wallace by about two dozen votes, according to Fox Chicago.

A GOP newcomer, McKinley slammed his opponent as a Democratic "Machine" candidate.

"Robin Kelly is funded by the machine. She is anointed by the machine," said McKinley according to ABC Chicago.

"The machine has been selecting people and now they are pressuring people to quit," McKinley said in a campaign video, with a veiled reference to Toi Hutchinson's exit after being targeted by anti-gun super PAC ads. "I'm exposing them. I need to be the nominee for the Republican party so I can bring out all the issues that you know ain't nobody else saying."

The Tribune reports GOP leaders have privately expressed "dismay and concern" over McKinley's victory, adding no national or state financial help from the party is likely.

According to Fox, the 2nd Congressional District is so heavily Democratic, no Republican has won the seat in more than 50 years.

Despite McKinley's seemingly narrow odds, ABC reports Kelly has said, "I take nothing for granted, and I respect whomever my opponents are."

Jackson Jr. resigned from Congress last fall ahead of his February guilty plea to charges that he and his wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, colluded to illegally spend $750,000 of campaign contributions on personal items.

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