Bloomberg Picks Gun Control as Key to Illinois Special Election

Robin Kelly, a former Cook County Administrator, gets a big boost from a billionaire for being on his side on the gun control debate.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PAC, Independence USA, released an ad Friday (shown above) supporting Robin Kelly over two other Democrats- former Rep. Debbie Halvorson and Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchinson.  The reason? Halvorson and Hutchinson both earned an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.  While it is yet to be proven that the Illinois special election replacing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be an up or down vote on gun control, Independence USA has given Kelly, a former Cook County Administrator, a welcome publicity boost.  This seems to be a good week for Kelly, who on Sunday received endorsements from Democratic Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush. The ad also seems uniquely well-timed, as the President visits Chicago today to promote legislation combating gun violence.

Bloomberg’s ad is his latest effort to counter the NRA, which spent over $19 million from 2011 to 2012 to support their favored candidates. Last month Bloomberg told TIME’s Michael Scherer, “The NRA is only powerful if you and I let them be powerful.”  For the 2012 election cycle, Independence USA spent about $10 million on five races around the country and won four, including the primary defeat of a veteran pro-NRA Democratic Representative in California, Joe Baca. “I want the Congress to have to stand up and say, ‘I’m with the NRA and support killing our children’ or ‘No.’ And if the answer is, ‘I’m going to take on that fight,’ I’ve got their back,’” Bloomberg said.

Robin Kelly must be happy to know her back is protected by the billionaire big city mayor.  While Independence USA did not release the size of its latest ad buy, the group has already spent over $1.3 million opposing Halvorson, according to the Sunlight Foundation.  If Kelly wins the primary, set Feb. 26, she’ll be the overwhelming favorite for the heavily Democratic 2nd District seat.

(MORE: America’s New Gunfight: Inside the Campaign to Avert Mass Shootings)