Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Robin Kelly Wins Democratic Primary in Illinois

In House on February 27, 2013 at 10:58 am

As expected, ex-Cook County Chief Executive Officer Robin Kelly won the special Democratic congressional primary to replace resigned Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) in the Chicago-anchored 2nd Congressional District. Kelly is now a lock to win the heavily Democratic seat in the special general election scheduled for April 9.

Kelly easily outdistanced former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) 52-25 percent. The ex-congresswoman was making her second attempt at winning this district (losing to Jackson 29-71 percent in the CD-2 2012 regular Democratic primary) after suffering a re-election defeat in the 11th District two years ago. Prior to serving one term in the US House, Halvorson represented part of Will County in the state Senate for 12 years, rising to the position of Majority Leader.

In this special primary, the Chicago/Cook County vote coalesced around Kelly, thus giving her the inside track to victory. Halvorson’s only hope was to see the urban vote split among several candidates and thus allow her to solidify the more suburban and small rural constituency in the Will and Kankakee County areas of the district. Once the Chicago political establishment began to solidify behind Kelly, and other strong candidates began withdrawing and subsequently endorsing her, the race was effectively clinched.

Halvorson also had to endure a $2 million-plus pounding from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC, which ran a series of attack ads against her vis-a-vis the gun control issue and her previous support from the National Rifle Association.

Placing third was Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale who scored 11 percent. A total of 16 Democratic candidates received votes in last night’s primary, with just three reaching double-digits. Former Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-IL-2), who spent six years in federal prison on financial and sex crimes, placed well back in the field, garnering only 444 votes, or 1 percent.

Voter turnout across the district was low, somewhere well under 20 percent when the last of the votes are finally counted. The early vote was a key indicator in Kelly’s favor. With 4,370 early votes cast from Kelly’s stronghold in suburban Cook County, 1,601 of which came from her home precinct of Matteson Village Hall, it was clear from the start that she was opening up a big advantage. The city of Chicago precincts produced 2,713 Democratic early vote ballots. By contrast, in Halvorson’s stronghold of Will and Kankakee Counties, only 206 and 533 Democratic votes, respectively, were cast before Election Day and provided another indication as to how the final tally would unfold.

Last night, the Cook County vote more than quadrupled the two outlying counties. The huge metropolitan county was responsible for 82 percent of the total ballots cast. Though Halvorson performed as expected in her home of Will (63 percent) and Kankakee (66 percent) counties, she was overwhelmed in Cook, scoring only 19 percent in the suburban precincts and a paltry 9 percent in the city of Chicago.

The GOP result is still undetermined, though the outcome is irrelevant. Only 3,499 people participated in the Republican primary, and community activist Paul McKinley held a scant 23-vote lead over Christian book publisher Eric Wallace. No candidate even topped the 1,000 vote mark.

The election was decided last night. Robin Kelly will be the person replacing the disgraced Congressman Jackson, and will officially do so in the pro forma April 9 special general election.

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