02/11/2013 03:43 pm ET

Illinois 2nd District Early Voting Begins As Special Election To Replace Jackson Jr. Draws Near

The race to replace former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois' 2nd Congressional District heats up as early voting kicks off Monday.

Voters in the currently unrepresented district were able to cast their ballot in the special primary as of Monday morning, reports WGN.

According to NBC Chicago, early voting will take place at designated areas around the district through Feb. 23 with the primary for the April 9 special election held three days later.

Gun control has emerged as the central issue in the special election, so much so that out-of-state super PAC money has poured in to the race. Among them is a super PAC backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg which released a new ad Monday attacking the previously NRA-favored candidate Debbie Halvorson.

The crowded field has 16 Democratic candidates, including Halvorson, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, former state representative Robin Kelly and former NFL player Napoleon Harris.

Former Rep. Jackson gave up his seat just before Thanksgiving last year and has reportedly signed a plea deal involving "significant" jail time to bring his federal probe to an end.



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