Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: April 2013, 1st term.

Born: April 30, 1956, New York, NY

Home: Matteson, IL

Education: 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

Ethnicity: Black/African American

Religion: Christian

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.”

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-0773

(202) 225-4583

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1239
Washington, DC 20515-1302

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-0773

(202) 225-4583

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1239
Washington, DC 20515-1302

DISTRICT OFFICE

(708) 679-0078

600 Holiday Plaza Drive Suite 505
Matteson, IL 60443

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-0773

(202) 225-4583

600 Holiday Plaza Drive Suite 505
Matteson, IL 60443

DISTRICT OFFICE

(708) 679-0078

304 South Indiana Avenue lower level
Kankakee, IL 60901

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-0773

(202) 225-4583

304 South Indiana Avenue lower level
Kankakee, IL 60901

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-0773

(202) 225-4583

PO Box 6953
Chicago, IL 60680

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

4203 Cedarwood Lane
Matteson, IL 60443

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Agriculture

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Arts

Charles Bolden
Staff Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Education

Charles Bolden
Staff Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Environment

Brandon Webb
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-0773

Charles Bolden
Staff Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Finance

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Govt Ops

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Gun Issues

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Health

Brandon Webb
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-0773

Homeland Security

Charles Bolden
Staff Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Housing

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Immigration

Brandon Webb
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-0773

Charles Bolden
Staff Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Judiciary

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Labor

Brandon Webb
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-0773

Military

Matt McMurray
Special Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Science

Brandon Webb
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-0773

Charles Bolden
Staff Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Social Security

Brandon Webb
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-0773

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Tax

Zachary Ostro
Legislative Director

(202) 225-0773

Jay Cho
Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Veterans

Matt McMurray
Special Assistant

(202) 225-0773

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Robin Kelly
Votes: 153,433
Percent: 78.05%
Eric Wallace
Votes: 43,142
Percent: 21.95%
2013 GENERAL
Robin Kelly
Votes: 58,834
Percent: 70.72%
Paul McKinley
Votes: 18,387
Percent: 22.1%
2013 PRIMARY
Robin Kelly
Votes: 31,079
Percent: 50.43%
Debbie Halvorson
Votes: 14,650
Percent: 23.77%
Anthony Beale
Votes: 6,457
Percent: 10.48%

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