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Hutchinson quits race, backs Kelly, uniting African-American, progressive forces

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WASHINGTON--State Sen. Toi Hutchinson pulled out of the Democratic primary to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. on Sunday, throwing her endorsement to chief rival former State Rep. Robin Kelly days before the election, with that move consolidating African-American and progressive political support for Kelly.

"I am ending my campaign for Congress today and throwing my support behind Robin Kelly. I urge those who have been supporting me to now work hard for Robin over the next 9 days," Hutchinson said in a statement released Sunday morning.

Hutchinson's decision comes after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had emerged as the major player in the Illinois Democratic Second Congressional District primary spending--$1.4 million as of Friday--by his anti-gun Independence PAC USA. The PAC started to take aim at Hutchinson on Friday in a massive TV buy.

The primary had split usual progressive allies, with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle backing Hutchinson and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Danny Davis and Rep. Bobby Rush supporting Kelly.

To underscore the new unity, Hutchinson, Kelly, Preckwinkle and Schakowsky all were part on the Sunday statement.

The new alliance is aimed to defeat former Rep. Debbi Halvorson in a contest where racial politics--Halvorson is the only white --and gun politics--Halvorson ran for re-election in 2010 with the support of the National Rifle Association--are in play. The Second Congressional District is heavily African-American.


The unity is crucial because the Democratic primary field is crowded and the winner on the Feb. 26 balloting will need only a plurality--not a majority--of the votes. Halvorson, Kelly and Hutchinson have been the front-runners. While there are likely portions of the sprawling district--with voters in Cook, Will and Kankakee Counties--who may be sympathetic to gun rights issues--they are likely to be Republicans--who would have to be persuaded to pull a Democratic primary ballot on Tuesday.

The Bloomberg PAC has been pounding at Halvorson for weeks, coming out for Kelly--and against Hutchinson in that Friday TV spot. PAC spokesman Stefan Friedman told me Saturday the PAC was poised to spend at least $2 million in the contest.

Preckwinkle endorsed Hutchinson in January, snubbing Kelly--who she hired to be her chief administrative officer.

Kelly, in her statement said, while "Hutchinson and I haven't agreed on everything, we have a strong mutual respect, share a passion for public service and dedication to the people in Chicago and the Southland. I'm pleased to have her on our team. Likewise, I am excited that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has joined our campaign. She has been a strong voice in the fight against gun violence in the county. In Congress, I will work with Senator Hutchinson, President Preckwinkle and other leaders throughout our district to get guns off our streets and bring jobs to our neighborhoods."

"This election is too important for our party to remain divided," Schakowsky said.

Kelly will discuss the state of the race at a press conference at 2:30 p.m. CT at her Richton Park campaign office, 3707 Sauk Trail.

Below, statements from Senator Toi Hutchinson, Robin Kelly, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

Senator Toi Hutchinson: "I am ending my campaign for Congress today and throwing my support behind Robin Kelly. I urge those who have been supporting me to now work hard for Robin over the next 9 days. I have said from day one that this campaign is not about me or any one person; it's about moving America forward and standing with President Obama to create new jobs and safer communities. Robin is a friend, and has captured momentum in pulling our community together. I am simply unwilling to risk playing a role going forward that could result in 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. President Obama needs a strong voice and a partner in Congress to win these important fights and I do not believe Debbie Halvorson would be that voice or partner."

Robin Kelly: Today is a good day for the Second Congressional District. While Senator Hutchinson and I haven't agreed on everything, we have a strong mutual respect, share a passion for public service and dedication to the people in Chicago and the Southland. I'm pleased to have her on our team. Likewise, I am excited that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has joined our campaign. She has been a strong voice in the fight against gun violence in the county. In Congress, I will work with Senator Hutchinson, President Preckwinkle and other leaders throughout our district to get guns off our streets and bring jobs to our neighborhoods."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle: "Robin Kelly and Toi Hutchinson are both very strong, independent woman and public servants. I consider them both friends of mine. During Debbie Halvorson's one term in Congress, she opposed President Obama on dozens of issues including critical Wall St. reform and extending benefits for the long term unemployed. She has also vowed to fight his common sense plans for stronger gun laws. I'm proud of Toi for agreeing to put voters before her own ambitions. She is young and has a bright future ahead of her. I did not want to see her campaign close with negative attacks at a time when Robin Kelly is surging with momentum to capture the Democratic nomination for Congress. Robin is a strong leader and will thrive in Congress. I wish her all the luck in the world and I know we will work closely together on issues of mutual importance to our Southland constituents."

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky: "This election is too important for our party to remain divided. I'm thrilled that Senator Hutchinson has joined me today in supporting Robin Kelly's campaign for Congress. Senator Hutchinson is a strong leader with a bright future. I applaud her for doing what is best for the Democratic Party today and joining the Kelly campaign so Robin can go to Washington to work with me and President Obama for common sense gun safety laws."

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