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The pol report. Chicago politics in review: Thursday

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Up today: Robin Kelly is to be sworn in to replace the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.
It will be the first time in nine months that residents of the 2nd congressional district will have representation in Washington. Read more

Slating today for Cook County committeemen to pick William Beavers replacement.
Despite his own troubles, Stanley Moore appears to be the front-runner to replace the recently convicted Cook County Commissioner William Beavers. Read more

This week:

Michelle Obama speaks out on gun control. She chokes up as she does it.
Read more.
Transcript here.
President Obama applauded Capitol Hill compromise on reform measures. Read more


The daughter of President Barack Obama's former pastor was indicted
on charges of money laundering and lying to federal investigators in an expanding 2009 state grant-fraud case.
Jeri L. Wright, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was accused of participating in a fraud scheme allegedly orchestrated by former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans and her husband involving a $1.25 million state job-training grant geared toward minorities. Read more

Blago cases that just won't go away
One of the last loose ends in Operation Board Games -- the federal probe that led to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's incarceration -- was tied up Wednesday when crooked construction boss agreed to a final plea deal. Read more

City Council comes up with a new tax
Warning of a "chilling" impact on tourism, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) on Tuesday broke with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the mayor's plan to shift Chicago's parking tax from a sliding scale to a fixed percentage.
Budget Director Alex Holt has argued that the switch -- from a sliding scale that tops out at $5 for a parking tab of $12 or more to a flat tax of 20 percent on weekdays and 18 percent on weekends -- would be "revenue-neutral." Read more

Gun control: A majority of Illinois residents have a certain view on gun control. Read more


Videos by Natasha Korecki



Toi Hutchinson may have dropped out of a competitive race just nine days before the Feb. 26 special election, but Ald. Anthony Beale's campaign said it isn't going anywhere.

Beale spokeswoman Delmarie Cobb told the Sun-Times Sunday that the campaign received a call last night "I won't say from who" pushing Beale to clear the way for former state Rep. Robin Kelly.

Cobb accused Kelly's campaign of "in a desperation move," trying to pressure other candidates to clear the field, claiming that the more than $1 million in money attacking Kelly's opponents isn't having the effect it believed it would. Kelly is a front-runner in the race, having out-raised her opponents and receiving a steady stream of endorsements. Cobb said despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Independece USA SuperPAC pouring $1.4 million into attack ads in the race, ostensibly to benefit Kelly while attacking Debbie Halvorson, internal numbers show that Halvorson's numbers are mostly holding.

"By now, Debbie should be destroyed," Cobb said of the attack ads. "We know for a fact that the needle isn't moving. Robin's numbers aren't increasing and Debbie's are going down very slowly."

Cobb would not release the campaign's internal numbers. However, she said:
"I'm just telling you, we feel fine," Cobb said. "All the activity that's going on in this race, is reinforcing what we believe -- we are contenders in this race."

For its part, the Kelly campaign said Cobb's claim is the first they heard of such a phone call to Beale.
"The call didn't come from us," Kelly spokesman Jonathan Blair said.


Ald. Anthony Beale's campaign is blaming a "glitch in the software" for failing to identify the origin of $44,000 of the $49,000 in donations to his congressional campaign.

Beale's campaign for congress will file a new congressional financial disclosure after the Chicago Sun-Times asked questions about $44,000 in donations that weren't accounted for in filing documents last week.

Beale, who is running for Jesse Jackson's former seat in the 2nd Congressional district, had claimed almost $50,000 in receipts in its campaign fund but only accounted for $5,000 of it in a form filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Federal election laws say that only donations less than $200 need not be itemized.

"We're doing an amendment. There was a glitch in the software," said DelMarie Cobb, Beale's campaign spokeswoman.
"We called them, we were very upset. When you asked me, I did not know what you were talking about but the moment I looked at it, it was clear as day."

Cobb said the new filing will be "completely redone and will consist of 15 pages."

She said the glitch happened when the $44,000 was inputed on the wrong line, one that was for non-itemized contributions. The Sun-Times first asked Beale's people about the discrepancy on Friday.

Thumbnail image for kelly_feb1.JPGIllinois 2nd congressional candidate Debbie Halvorson may lead in the polls for the Feb. 26 special primary, but she's trailing when it comes to raising money.

Former state Rep. Robin Kelly (pictured right) leads with State Sen. Toi Hutchinson in second place, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission that trickled in late last night.

Does that mean much in a special election?

The answer is no, if you ask U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) who was far outspent when he ran in 2009 to replace Rahm Emanuel. Halvorson, a one term former U.S. rep has said she doesn't need to depend as much on fund-raising since she has more name recognition in the district.

Here's how the top candidates fared in just the last two months. For an overview of a ramped up week in the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old seat: click here.

Click the name below to view the candidates' financial filing.

Robin Kelly reported total receipts of $200,000 and about $198,000 cash on hand.

Toi Hutchinson reported a total of $135,000 in receipts and $129,637 cash on hand.

Debbie Halvorson reported $50,000 in receipts and $44,000 cash on hand. The total includes a $25,000 loan to herself. Note: this may be updated, according to the campaign, following a "big fund-raiser" last night. Stay tuned.

Anthony Beale reported just shy of $50,000 -- though the filing only shows $5,000 in contributions, including from Tom Dart and Ed Burke's committees. There's $44,000 in unitemized contributions. That means he's saying almost all his donations came in amounts less than $200. A Beale spokeswoman is getting back on this. He had about $44,000 cash on hand.

Here's what happened in 2nd congressional race this week

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In a race where most of the attacks were playing out quietly over direct mail, it's been a busy week in the 2nd congressional district with surprise endorsements, snubs, big money and a drop-out.

All the good stuff that goes into politics.

Here's a rundown:

Bloomberg Super-PAC jumps in the race

Michael Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC pumps money into a TV ad attacking Debbie Halvorson for her NRA rating. Halvorson defends the A rating and calls her opponents desperate because she is the frontrunner in the race.

Preckwinkle snubs Kelly, backs Hutchinson
"I've thought long and hard and frankly struggled with this decision because Robin Kelly is a former employee of mine and friend," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. But she also said this was about being pragmatic: "It's not necessarily about the person you know best or you've known the longest, but the person you think is the strongest candidate and will win -- and that's Sen. Hutchinson."

Robin Kelly gets the backing of Napoleon Harris
Napoleon Harris gave his support to Kelly as he dropped out of the race. Just weeks earlier, Harris had been blanketing the 2nd congressional district with direct mail ads. Harris, 33, a former NFL player and newly-minted state senator has some name recognition as well as deep pockets. In his race for state senate last year, Harris loaned himself $220,000, a debt he still carried on his latest campaign finance report.

Meanwhile, a consultant who worked on Harris' campaign was cited in a state ethics probe.

Hutchinson campaign hits Kelly over Harris.
"While pretending to be an advocate for gun safety reform, Robin Kelly yesterday accepted the endorsement of someone facing a felony gun charge. And today, after claiming to be a progressive supporter of women's rights, she accepted the endorsement of Senator Napoleon Harris, one of the Democratic Party's most deeply conservative voices. Senator Harris is on record as anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, against the Equal Rights Amendment, and in favor of voter ID laws. Anyone who values these rights needs to question whether Robin Kelly can be trusted to stand up for them in Washington."

Hutchinson wins backing of 48 pastors
"There is no question in our mind that Toi Hutchinson is the candidate who will take our voices with us to Congress," Bishop Simon Gordon of Triedstone Full Grace Baptist Church says in a statement. "She has the kind of commitment to anti-violence, education, and job creation that we need so desperately right now. I'm excited to have her fighting for us in Washington."

Gun issue front and center at forum
A major topic was gun violence, and the killing this week of a 15-year-old Chicago girl, Hadiya Pendleton, who had attended President Barack Obama's inauguration with her school band, was cited by the candidates who back stricter gun control.


Illinois 2nd Congressional District candidate Debbie Halvorson told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that she is open to a discussion on some kind of ban on high-capacity clips as she denounced a new ad funded by Independence USA PAC, a Bloomberg SuperPAC, attacking her on her gun safety stance. She called the ad an "act of desperation," by opponents who want to knock her down from her front-runner status in the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old seat.
Beyond that, she says the ad isn't accurate.
Halvorson said on Tuesday that the Bloomberg ad, which knocks her for having an A rating from the NRA and for opposing a ban on high capacity clips, is basing its opinion on an old questionnaire that she filled out years ago.
Would she be open to a discussion on some kind of ban on high-capacity clips?
"Absolutely. Because that's I think where our problem lies," Halvorson told the Sun-Times. "You better believe it. We need all parties at the table. And that's why I'm the best person to send to Congress -- because I'm the only one who can talk to both sides. I'm the only one who can go back to Congress and have a talk with all parties and have a common sense conversation with how we can fix this. I take this as a sign of desperation."
While Halvorson has recently said she would not support a ban on assault weapons, she said she would be open to toughening laws against straw purchasers, changes in background checks as well as boosting accuracy of weapon-owner databases.
Cook County has had a longtime ban on assault weapons and Chicago had more than 500 murders last year, including one in which an assault weapon was used.
Polls have repeatedly put Halvorson in the lead against other top-tiered candidates in the 2nd congressional race.
Halvorson, of Crete, had a leg up on name recognition as a one-term congresswoman who made a failed run against Jackson in last year's primary as well as the benefit of having an organization in place when Jackson resigned from his job last November.

Former State Rep. Robin Kelly, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, Ald. Anthony Beale and State. Sen. Napoleon Harris are among the top tier of candidates amid the 17 Democrats running in the Feb. 26th special primary. Kelly has tried to capitalize on her lifetime F rating with the NRA in the race, by calling on her opponents to release their NRA questionnaires. Hutchinson also notched an A rating from the NRA, but has not been the target of Bloomberg's ads -- as of yet. Hutchinson recently signed on to failed state legislation that would ban assault rifles.

"It was my NRA rating when I represented a rural district, with no Cook County, representing all rural, no Cook County," she said of her district before a congressional remap changed boundaries. The Second Congressional district stretches into Cook, Will and Kankakee counties. "I did have an A rating, as did Toi Hutchinson. Since then, I haven't even filled out an NRA questionnaire, I didn't now."

Halvorson said the ad was an effort to change the subject from the fact that she's leading in the polls.

"This is more going after the front-runner and trying to change the subject and the fact that
Cook County already has an assault weapons ban. If I were Toni Preckwinkle, I would be embarrassed, too. If I were Toni Preckwinkle, I would try to change the subject also. It's a shame she's trying to change the subject. I don't think it's her fault, but I do think it's hypocritical of her to try to blame me, she's the Cook County Board PResident, why aren't they talking about what they can do to reduce crime instead of saying we need a national ban on assault weapons and Debbie Halvorson isn't doing enough about it."

Preckwinkle on Monday endorsed Hutchinson in the race.

Video: 2nd Congressional candidate Toi Hutchinson on guns

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One of Toi Hutchinson's opponents, Robin Kelly, called out Hutchinson for having a high rating with the NRA. Hutchinson says she supports a ban on assault weapons and recently signed on to gun control legislation in the Illinois Senate. They are just two of 22 candidates who have filed to run in the Feb. 26 special election primary for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old seat.


Hours after congressional candidate Robin Kelly launched a salvo at her opponents in the debate over gun control, one of her opponents -- and onetime good friends -- fired back.

Candidate Toi Hutchinson took Kelly to task for "attacks" on Hutchinson's record. Kelly needled Hutchinson for having a 92 percent rating from the NRA then celebrated her own "F" grade.

"Robin Kelly's attacks are disappointing attempts to score political points," said Hutchinson. "Robin not only endorsed me in my re-election last year but even contributed money to my campaign. I have had hundreds of conversations with her and not once has she told me that she disagrees with my position on gun safety. She knows that as a mother of three teenagers I am deeply committed to keeping them and their peers safe."

Hutchinson, Kelly and Debbie Halvorson are unique in that they are all friends but are competing together for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s vacated seat.

On the day she publicly announced, Halvorson said there was going to be a "family fight" but that they would all make up in the end.

Robin Kelly needles opponents on NRA support

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Trying to seize the moment after President Obama's unveiling of new gun control initiatives, candidate for 2nd congressional district, Robin Kelly, drew attention to her opponents' previous support from the NRA.

"Unlike my opponents Debbie Halvorson and Toi Hutchinson, who both received support from the NRA, I got an F rating and frankly, I could not be more proud," Kelly said in a statement.

The Sun-Times previously looked at the candidates' views on gun issues.

The special primary to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. will be held on Feb. 26.