Robin Kelly ContactBack to top
Address: 2419 RHOB, DC 20515
Phone: (708) 679-0078
Address: 600 Holiday Plaza Drive, Matteson IL 60443
Phone: (708) 679-0078
Address: 304 South Indiana Avenue, Kankakee IL 60901
Robin Kelly StaffBack to top
Robin Kelly CommitteesBack to top
Robin Kelly BiographyBack to top
- Elected: April 2013, 1st term.
- District: Illinois 2
- Born: Apr. 30, 1956, New York, NY
- Home: Matteson
Bradley U., B.A. 1977; Bradley U., M.A. 1982; Northern IL U., Ph.D. 2004
- Professional Career:
Dir., minority student services and professional counselor, Bradley U., 1990-92; Dir. of community affairs, Village of Matteson, IL, 1992-2006; Chief of Staff, IL St. Treas., 2007-10; Chief Admin. Officer, Cook County Board Pres., 2010-12
- Political Career:
IL House of Reps., 2002-07
- Ethnicity: Black/African American
- Family: Married (Nathaniel Horn); 2 children
Democrat Robin Kelly won an April 2013 special election to fill the South Side Chicago seat of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned amid a scandal over his conversion of campaign contributions to personal use. The election took place as a wave of killings shook Chicago, and Kelly emphasized her ardent support for stronger gun-control laws.
Kelly grew up in New York and moved to Illinois to attend Bradley University in Peoria, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling and human development services. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University. After working at a youth shelter and a counseling center, she returned to Bradley to become director of minority student services. She then spent 14 years as director of community affairs in Matteson, a village on Chicago’s South Side.
In 2002, Kelly won a seat in the Illinois House, where she served three two-year terms. She concentrated on protecting victims of consumer fraud and also worked on extending voter registration, protecting victims of domestic violence, and improving public safety in the Chicago area. She resigned her seat in 2007 to become chief of staff to state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the U.S. Senate seat. Kelly sought to reduce staffing levels in the office as well as return greater amounts of lost cash and assets to Illinois residents and businesses. She ran to replace Giannoulias as treasurer that year, but lost to GOP state Sen. Dan Rutherford, 50% to 45%. She then became chief administrative officer to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, had been a popular figure in his district since his election in 1995. Then in 2012, the Democrat became the subject of a federal investigation into possible misuse of campaign funds. He took a medical leave of absence from the House in June, and it was eventually revealed that he was undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder. Nevertheless, Jackson easily won reelection in the heavily Democratic district in November 2012 with 63% of the vote. He submitted his resignation two weeks after the election, citing mental and physical health problems. Three months later, he pleaded guilty to wire and mail fraud after prosecutors said he used about $750,000 in campaign money for personal expenses, including purchasing a fedora worn by singer Michael Jackson.
His resignation touched off considerable jostling among Illinois Democrats. Among those expressing interest was former Rep. Mel Reynolds, who gave up the 2nd District seat in 1995 after his conviction for sex-related offenses, including having sex with an underage campaign worker. Also interested was Debbie Halvorson, who served one term in the House from 2008 to 2010 and lost a 2012 primary challenge to Jackson. But Kelly won newspaper endorsements and the backing of local Democratic power brokers. “She is not a showboat,” the Chicago Tribune said in supporting her candidacy. “She won’t dazzle you with ebullience. She doesn’t grandstand. She just works hard.”
Kelly’s biggest endorsement came from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who launched a super PAC dedicated to electing politicians supporting tougher gun laws. His PAC broadcast ads lauding Kelly for backing universal background checks and a ban on military-style assault weapons, while criticizing Halvorson, who had the National Rifle Association’s endorsement in her earlier congressional race. The issue took on special resonance in a city drawing national attention for gun violence. A wave of killings in 2013 threatened to make the year one of the city’s bloodiest since 2002.
Kelly faced criticism after a state inspector general’s report and an internal audit alleged she violated timekeeping rules during her failed campaign for state treasurer. “I’m not going to tell you I didn’t make a mistake, but I did not do anything wrong,” she told the Tribune. But it mattered little; she easily won the February special election primary with 52% of the vote to Halvorson’s 24%. Chicago City Council Alderman Anthony Beale received 11%, and 13 other candidates split the remainder.
April’s general election was largely a formality, with unofficial returns showing Kelly trouncing Republican Paul McKinley, an ex-convict and unemployed political activist. She became only the second African-American woman to represent Illinois in the U.S. House, following Democrat Cardiss Collins, who served from 1973 to 1997. “We not only won an election,” Kelly said in her victory speech. “We took on the NRA, we gave a voice to the voiceless, and we put our communities on a brand new path to a brighter day.”Show Less