Citing Gun Issue, Kelly Claims Slight Lead in Illinois Special Election
Former state Rep. Robin Kelly has inched in front of the pack of Democrats looking to succeed former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., in a special election primary later this month, according to an internal poll conducted for her campaign.
The poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday by the Democratic firm GBA Strategies, shows Kelly is the choice of 26 percent of likely voters in Illinois's 2nd Congressional District, up from 15 percent a month ago. Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who was defeated by Jackson in last year's Democratic primary, is second, with 22 percent. Last month, Halvorson led the field with 25 percent. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson is third, at 20 percent, up from 16 percent in January.
The differences in support for Kelly, Halvorson and Hutchinson in the new survey are all within the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.9 percentage points. The poll surveyed 400 likely voters. Other candidates earned clocked in at 10 percent or under: Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale (10 percent), former Democratic Rep. Mel Reynolds (5 percent) and health care executive Joyce Washington (2 percent).
Kelly's pollster, Jason McGrath, cited "gun control" as a reason for Kelly's jump in support, both in the memo and in a brief phone interview. Only 16 percent of likely voters have a favorable image of the National Rifle Association, the poll shows, while three-in-five voters have a negative impression. Both Halvorson and Hutchinson have previously earned "A" ratings from the NRA.
"This is what this race is about," McGrath said in the interview.
A majority of likely voters, 56 percent, say they would are "not at all likely" to support a candidate with an "A" rating from the NRA, according to a polling memo released by Kelly's campaign. McGrath pointed to a Chicago Tribune story this week reporting Hutchinson's 2010 answers on a NRA questionnaire that later resulted in her "A" rating. The memo also reports a slide in Halvorson's favorablity ratings, which dropped from 34 percent last month to 29 percent in the new poll, while the percentage viewing her unfavorably more than doubled, from 18 percent to 37 percent.
Kelly's campaign has honed in on the gun issue following last December's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, but McGrath said that this was the first survey he had fielded since early January.
"This is a big week for us," McGrath said, crediting a recent endorsement and fundraising effort from the liberal blog Daily Kos with generating $50,000 in campaign contributions. "We're really moving here."
The other campaigns have not released their internal polling data, except for a survey conducted in early January for Hutchinson's campaign showing Halvorson marginally ahead of Hutchinson, with Kelly third.