Guns Dominate Race to Replace Jesse Jackson Jr.

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State Sen. Donne Trotter was among the favorites before his December arrest at O’Hare. Trotter said he had been working the night before as a security guard and had forgotten the gun was in his bag. But he dropped out a month later, saying he didn’t want the charges to become a distraction in the race.

Former state Rep. Robin Kelly and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale began blasting state Sen. Toi Hutchinson and former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson for once receiving “A” ratings from the NRA.

Hutchinson has said the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School caused her to re-evaluate her positions and that she now supports Obama’s proposals, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Her campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Beale accused Hutchinson, who is from suburban Cook County, of “jumping on the bandwagon.” Kelly, who also is from the Chicago suburbs, called it “backtracking.”

“What about what’s been happening in Chicago the past five years? Or the other Sandy Hooks across the United States?” Kelly said. “The only thing that’s changed is she’s running for office.”

Halvorson, who lost to Jackson in the 2012 primary, is standing by her positions, despite being the target of ads from Bloomberg’s Independence USA super PAC. She supports background checks for gun purchases and registration of all firearms but opposes an assault weapons ban, saying law-abiding gun owners have Second Amendment rights and a ban in Cook County hasn’t prevented gun violence.

It’s a stance that could help Halvorson among voters in the far south end of the district, where she lives. That area is more rural and home to a greater number of white voters, as well as Republicans and others who support gun rights.

Halvorson is white, while Kelly, Hutchinson and Beale — like more than half of the district — are black. If Halvorson wins enough of the vote in the south end of the district and the other three candidates split the vote in Chicago and its south suburbs, it could be enough to give Halvorson the win.

Kelly has been most aggressive on the gun issue, earning her endorsements from U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, two Chicago Democrats from neighboring districts. On Tuesday, she was to be Rush’s guest for the State of the Union address.

Kelly launched a TV ad last week touting her anti-gun record, which includes working with Obama on legislation in the Illinois General Assembly a decade ago.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face the Republican primary winner in the April 9 special general election.

If Kelly prevails, Rose said, “I think it will be kind of a signal of what’s ahead in 2014.”

(Photo: AP)

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