Robin Kelly Easily Wins Illinois Congressional Race for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Former Seat

She was elected to represent Illinois' 2nd Congressional District with a landslide margin

By Ward Room Staff
|  Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013  |  Updated 9:38 AM EDT
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Robin Kelly addressed supporters from a Holiday Inn in Matteson, Ill.

Robin Kelly addressed supporters from a Holiday Inn in Matteson, Ill.

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Robin Kelly will head to Washington, D.C. this week to become the next congresswoman from Illinois.

With 92 percent of precincts reporting as of 9 p.m.., Kelly had earned 72 percent of the vote, trumping ballots cast for her closest challenger, Republican Paul McKinley.

The 56-year-old congresswoman-elect, who replaces convicted former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., said she'll head to Congress with a priority list that includes gun control and immigration reform.

"Make no mistake, the road ahead will be bumpy. Making our families safe from gun violence is going to be a challenge," she told supporters at a Holiday Inn in Matteson. "Putting people back to work is a tough task. But, to those who say that we won't be able to make Congress do anything on gun control, who think this Tea Party Congress can't be beaten, I've got two words: Watch us."

She was joined on stage by the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teen who was slain as she took shelter from the rain in a south side part just days after attending President Barack Obama's inaugural ceremonies.

"I am awed and inspired by the strength of families like the Pendletons and, unfortunately, far too many others, who are working to turn tragedy into triumph," said Kelly.

Kelly will have big shoes to fill: Jackson was a 17-year incumbent who served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and brought home nearly $1 billion to the district. He also had strong relationships with mayors, activists and voters across the district that includes city neighborhoods, suburbs and some rural areas.

Jackson resigned in November. He pleaded guilty in February in federal court to lavishly misspending $750,000 in campaign funds.

Kelly received big name endorsements including from President Barack Obama and received a huge boost from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC, which supported her gun control stance. Also, the district is solidly Democratic and has been for about six decades. McKinley is an ex-con-turned-community activist who barely won his primary.
Gun Rights Group Calls Kelly an "Ignorant Witch"
Early estimates showed low voter turnout in parts of the district, especially the city. Tuesday's special election coincided with municipal contests in other parts of the state; Chicago held its municipal contests in 2011.

Only 8 percent of city voters showed up at the polls, according to early estimates, with an expected turnout of roughly 12 percent by day's end. In the suburbs, the number was higher.

Independents Elizabeth Pahlke, Marcus Lewis and Curtis Bay, as well as Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones, were also on Tuesday's ballot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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