Hutchinson out, Super PAC in: 2nd district race heats up

February 18, 2013

With the special primary election just around the corner, Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson has decided to drop out of the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., turning up the heat in an already tumultuous campaign.

Hutchison issued a statement Sunday saying she was ending her campaign for the 2nd District seat, and that she would throw her support behind former Illinois state Rep. Robin Kelly. Hutchison said she would urge those who supported her to also switch their support to Kelly.

"Robin is a friend, and has captured momentum in pulling our community together,” Hutchinson said. “I am simply unwilling to risk playing a role going forward that could result in dividing our community at time when we need more unity than ever.”

Hutchinson was the most recent target of anti-gun campaign ads funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee called the Independence USA PAC.

Bloomberg’s Super PAC has played a surprisingly large role in the 2nd District race, putting over $2 million in the race, mostly toward attack ads and mailings against former U.S. Rep Debbie Halvorson or in support of Kelly. Independence USA has also endorsed Kelly.

On its website, the Super PAC is described as targeting candidates who “support and oppose efforts to crack down on illegal guns and reform education policy.”

Stefan Friedman, spokesman for Independence USA, says no money has been given directly to any candidate, and there has been no coordination between the PAC and the candidacy of Robin Kelly or anyone else.

Friedman says the PAC got involved in the 2nd district race specifically because there were candidates "who have radical record of voting for NRA-sponsored gun regulation or pro-gun regulations." 

Halvorson said Monday that the actions by Bloomberg’s Super PAC don’t put her at a disadvantage.

“Illinois is not for sale. And for a mayor from New York to come in and buy a congressional seat is ridiculous. And the people aren’t going to have anything of it,” Halvorson said. “People see right through it. They know it’s false and it’s not working."

Halvorson said she is against an all out ban on military-style assault weapons, saying " banning a gun is only going after the law abiding citizens." She called instead for universal background checks, and harsher penalties for straw buyers and gun traffickers.

Fellow candidate and 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale had a different take on the Super PAC involvement. He said people should be outraged.

"Those Super PACS are made to either destroy you or try to prop you up," he said.

Robin Kelly couldn't be reached for comment on this story.

Kelly, Beale and Halvorson are all running on the Democratic ticket.

Other Democrats still in the running include Anthony W. Williams and Mel Reynolds. The Republican ticket includes Larry Pickens and Beverly Reid. Early voting is now underway, and the actual primary will take place February 26.