(MCT) — The first TV ad in the special primary election to replace ex-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. comes from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super political action committee and targets Democrat Debbie Halvorson's support of gun owner rights.
A spokesman for Independence USA, Bloomberg's gun control-backing super PAC, said it will launch what it called a "significant" TV and cable ad campaign Wednesday to inform Chicago-area voters about Halvorson's past support from the National Rifle Association. No details on the size of the ad buy were disclosed.
The wealthy Bloomberg, an ally of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel among big-city mayors trying to curb gun violence, has pumped millions of his own money into the super PAC.
The criticism of gun control opponents fits into a strategy that Democratic candidates are using against Halvorson, a former one-term congresswoman from Crete. Foes note Halvorson's opposition to a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines backed by home-state President Barack Obama.
In the TV ad, a narrator says, "In the race to replace Jesse Jackson, watch out for Debbie Halvorson. When she was in Congress before, Halvorson got an A from the NRA. The NRA: against comprehensive background checks, against banning deadly assault weapons, against banning high-capacity ammunition clips."
Among the 17 Democrats who have filed for the Feb. 26 special primary election, some have expressed concerns that Halvorson's name recognition gives her an edge. Besides serving in Congress, Halvorson unsuccessfully challenged Jackson in last year's primary. Jackson resigned the congressional seat in November amid federal ethics probes and a diagnosis of bipolar depression.
On Monday, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle endorsed state Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields for the Democratic nomination. Preckwinkle contended Halvorson was too conservative for the South Side and south suburban 2nd Congressional District.
Hutchinson, who replaced Halvorson in the Illinois Senate when Halvorson was elected to Congress, also has gotten NRA backing in the past. But Hutchinson noted that she is a co-sponsor in Springfield of state legislation that would ban semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity clips, though the measure is unlikely to go anywhere.
The Bloomberg super PAC is not endorsing a candidate in the ad. But the ad said Halvorson co-sponsored a measure "that would allow some criminals to carry loaded, hidden guns into Chicago."
That was a reference to unsuccessful federal legislation to legalize public possession of firearms across state lines, if the gun owners had a permit and were not barred from carrying a concealed firearm by federal or state law. Halvorson was among 209 sponsors of the 2009 bill.
Halvorson has said she could not "in good conscience" place additional gun bans on law-abiding citizens until current gun laws were more strongly enforced, though she does support universal gun checks and an upgrading of the government database to ensure that criminals and the mentally ill do not get guns.
Also Tuesday, Democratic candidate Robin Kelly announced endorsements that included that of state Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago. Trotter had been viewed as a leading contender for the 2nd District seat until he dropped out after being arrested at O'Hare International Airport for attempting to take a gun and ammunition on a plane.
Trotter said he had forgotten about the gun and ammunition after working as a security guard. Kelly, who was a former top aide to Preckwinkle and a onetime state lawmaker from Matteson, has made combating gun violence a key plank in her campaign.