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Illinois: Kelly Plans to Follow Obama’s Lead on Gun Control

Kelly won the Democratic nomination in Illinois' 2nd District. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Kelly won the Democratic nomination in Illinois' 2nd District. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Democrat Robin Kelly made gun control a central issue in her successful House primary last month, and now she says she will follow the president’s lead on that very issue in Congress.

“I see myself as standing with the president in helping him pass what he wants to pass,” Kelly said about gun control in an interview during her first trip to Washington, D.C., since her victory.

Kelly added that background checks and closing gun show loopholes are realistic policy points that could positively effect the 2nd District. She won the Feb. 26 primary in the south side Chicago district, an area that has been plagued by massive gun violence in recent years.

The 2nd District is a safe Democratic seat, and Kelly is all but certain to come to Congress after the April 9 special election to succeed former Democratic Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. Her Republican rival, Paul McKinley, is a convicted felon, according to The Chicago Tribune.

But Kelly’s primary garnered national attention when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC spent $2.5 million to boost her campaign. Her race served as the first test case for the super PAC, which supports candidates who back gun control, after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Kelly noted that she has never spoken with Bloomberg, even after her victory.

“Never talked to him before, never talked to him after [the primary],” she said. “We don’t know each other. He got involved on behalf of the families [affected by gun violence]. That’s how I look at it.”

A native of Harlem, Kelly moved to Illinois to pursue higher education and eventually settled in the Chicago area. In 2002, she successfully ran for the state House and served alongside Obama, then a state senator.

Four years later, Kelly left the legislature to serve as chief of staff to then-state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. After she lost a bid for that statewide office in 2010, Kelly was appointed to city office.

Kelly kicked off the 2nd District special primary as one in a crowded field. But she quickly picked up momentum by focusing on the gun control issue, and eventually two of her top foes dropped out and endorsed her.

To be sure, Bloomberg’s spending in the final weeks helped boost Kelly to get more than 50 percent of the primary vote. But Kelly praised her staff and other liberal groups for her win.

“What got me over the line was my hard work and the hard work of my staff and my volunteers,” she said. “Daily Kos was major. They were the first people to endorse me. I’m very, very appreciative of what they did.”

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