A Democratic candidate for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s congressional seat in Illinois has dropped out of the race after she faced an onslaught of advertising about her support for the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson announced over the weekend that would end her candidacy and endorsed former state Rep. Robin Kelly (D) in an effort to defeat former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who has opposed President Barack Obama's effort to ban assault weapons.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (I) super PAC Independence USA and the liberal CREDO super PAC had recently targeted both Hutchinson and Halvorson over their past backing of NRA positions against gun control. Independence USA had already poured $2.1 million into the race in support of Kelly.
Earlier this month, Kelly had blasted Hutchinson after a 2010 NRA questionnaire revealed that she would oppose supporting a law that made failing to report the theft of a firearm a crime. But the state senator insisted that she had changed her mind about supporting the NRA after the December shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
In her statement supporting Kelly on Sunday, Hutchinson said that she was dropping out to avoid "dividing our community at time when we need unity more than ever."
"In the wake of horrendous gun related crimes all across our country, I agree with Robin that we need to stand together to fight gun violence, but Debbie Halvorson been wrong headed in her refusal to moderate her views on banning dangerous assault weapons," Hutchinson explained.
Anthony Beale, a 9th Ward Alderman who is also running for the seat, worried that outside groups like Bloomberg's super PAC were influencing the outcome of the election.
"We're extremely troubled that we have a billionaire out of New York trying to buy this election, trying to tell the people of the second district who their representative should be," Beale asserted.
But Kelly argued that the groups supporting her were just leveling the playing field.
"The NRA has been spending money for years and I think that this particular PAC they're counterbalancing what the NRA has been doing for a very long time," she remarked.
"The NRA would like members of Congress to believe that politicians who vote for sensible gun regulations will pay the ultimate price come election time," CREDO super-PAC President Becky Bond said in a statement. "But we're proving in this race that it's the politicians who do the NRA's bidding who will be in trouble when they face the voters."
"If you are with the NRA -- Democrats included -- there is an army of activists ready to help defeat you in your next election."
Voters in the 2nd District will go to the polls on Feb. 26 for the special Democratic primary.
Watch this video from WLS-TV, broadcast Feb. 17, 2013