Political Animal


February 27, 2013 8:56 AM “Gun Referendum” In Chicago Not Close

By Ed Kilgore

Over the weekend, Kathleen Geier previewed the special Democratic primary in Illinois to replace U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., noting that it had become something of a referendum on gun issues. Sometimes “nationalization” of political contests is an optical illusion imposed by media types, but in this case it was real, since one major candidate, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, was endorsed by the NRA, while another, former state Rep. Robin Kelly, received heavy material backing from Michael Bloomberg’s Independent USA PAC.

As Kathleen mentioned, the very large candidate field (17 in all), the low turnout always expected in a winter special election in the midwest, and perhaps racial dynamics (Kelly was one of two viable African-American candidates; Halvorson is white and had previously represented a chunk of the district in Congress), made anti-gun activists nervous about the outcome. Turns out it wasn’t close: Kelly beat Halvorson by better than a two-to-one margin, and won an outright majority of the vote. She’ll face a Republican nominee on April 9, but in this heavily Democratic district, that’s just a formality.

As gun legislation lives or dies in this Congress, we can expect Kelly to become the rare symbol of a politician who thrived by taking on the NRA. And for Bloomberg, the $2.2 million his PAC spent on this special election could turn out to be one of his better investments.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • JR on February 27, 2013 9:22 AM:

    This shouldn't come as a surprise. Sure, Kelly and Bloomberg took a stand against the NRA, but neighborhoods too familiar with gun violence aren't NRA bastions. The fact, consciously ignored by gun rights activists, is that communities like Chicago's South Side are crying for fewer guns, not amassing personal arsenals.

  • c u n d gulag on February 27, 2013 9:59 AM:

    I'm very glad that she won.

    However, I'd have preferred that she not have taken that duplicious, stopped-clock, Bloomberg's Super PAC money.

    Sure, Mayor Bloomie's on the correct side of this issue - but how many times will we Democrats, especially Liberals, find ourselves on the other side of his money?

  • exlibra on February 27, 2013 11:43 AM:

    gulag, she didn't take Bloomberg's money. Bloomberg's PAC put out anti-Halvorson ads and "endorsed" Kelly, but that's not the same thing at all.

    All the same... I'll be curious to see if, in the future, the PAC takes on any *Republican* pro-gun candidates...

  • toowearyforoutrage on February 27, 2013 11:46 AM:

    JR hits it.
    If Democrats read ANY tea leaves from this, they're going to get STOMPED in 2014.

    Expect to lose Senate races in Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, New Mexico if this gun-grab talk continues.
    The ONLY reason the 50-state strategy is working is we stopped pushing 2nd amendment abuses. We'll lose them a lot quicker than we won 'em.

    The NRA handed over universal background checks and mental health enhancement. We could have taken these prizes and won. What happens? Chicken Dove Feinstein in California gives gun control zealots delusions that something changed. It hasn't. One lone nut does NOT change the minds of an entire voting bloc no matter how horrific the massacre. Not saying it's a good thing. Just stating the facts.

    Secondly, Bloomberg spent 2.2 million on a BLOWOUT?
    We think that's a good thing. He won't have that money for later against tougher opponents. This strikes me as a politically clumsy miscalculation. Didn't polls say he should keep more powder dry?

    Whethr you win by 1% or double digits doesn't change the outcome in a Dmeocracy like hours.

    Assuming Mr. Kilgore agrees with these analyses he puts forth, this may be the worst political analysis I've ever read here, which was low bar to clear. I agree with the vast percentage of WaMo material.

    This race says NOTHING nationally and Bloomberg's assault was WAY overkill. Unless he plans to open BILLIONS in 2014, spending 2 million to crush a pro-gun candidate was amateur hour. (Unless some type of gain is seen in a morale boost for the gun control side? I'm not buying it, but at least that would make sense. That's a VERY expensive 'pep rally.')

  • toowearyforoutrage on February 27, 2013 11:51 AM:

    Nevada, not New Mexico twice.

    ours, not hours.
    Gad, my typos are egregious.

  • Michael on February 28, 2013 5:14 AM:

    For one thing, now that bloomberg has shown that the NRA is not as effective as it has bragged about in the past, more deep pocket liberals and dems will be willing to match and surpass bloombergs efforts.
    We arent pushing second amendment abuses, that is the shrill call of Wayne Lappiere, who is fast becoming known as 'one deranged individual'.
    Gun grab talk is one thing, there crazy professions about a simple background check, which a large portion of the country including gun owners and rupug's agree on, is even extreme for some extremists.There is nothing wrong with going for all we can get while the opportunity presents itself.
    The second amendment is safe, although this radical supreme court is making even voting unsafe for the sake of protecting the republican party with voter suppression...