4/9/13 8:43 PM EDT
Democrat Robin Kelly cruised to victory in Illinois’s special congressional election on Tuesday night, clinching the vacant seat of disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
The Associated Press declared Kelly the winner over her Republican opponent, community activist Paul McKinley, after early returns showed her leading overwhelmingly.
Running in a heavily Democratic district encompassing part of Chicago’s South Side and its surrounding suburbs, Kelly had been the heavy favorite. McKinley, who was convicted of felony robbery, raised only a little more than $9,000 – about 80 times less than Kelly, who had the support of President Barack Obama and much of Illinois’s Democratic-dominated congressional delegation.
Kelly’s primary win in February was widely framed as a referendum on the national debate over gun control. She defeated Debbie Halvorson, a former congresswoman who had received high marks from the National Rifle Association. In a district wracked by gun violence, Kelly vowed to take a firm stand against firearms.
Illinois’s 2nd District seat has been vacant since November, when Jackson – who at the time was under federal investigation and in treatment for mental health problems — resigned the seat that he had held since 1995. In January, Jackson pleaded guilty to misuse of campaign funds. He is expected to be sentenced in June.