“When you talk to her,” a friend of mine from the Southside of Chicago began, after telling him I was attending an event for 2nd Congressional District candidate Robin Kelly, “tell her we’ve already heard about guns. What is she gonna do beyond that to help the people down here?”
And that is a big part of Kelly’s problem. Too much attention was given to the so-called Bloomberg Factor, which essentially turned the Republican’s own game back on them with contributions to Kelly’s pro-gun control stance. Much attention, arguably too much attention was given to the gun control issue, and the issue of violence in the city, much of which happens in the very district Kelly will inherit if elected.
There is of course a reason for that attention. Some of it is warranted, and some of it is meant to demonize Kelly as a gun grabbing zealot. The primary took place at a time when there was significant attention locally and nationally about gun violence in Chicago. It came on the heels of Hadiya Pendleton’s murder and just months following the New Town massacre. Bloomberg stepped in, unbeknownst to Kelly, spending $2.2 million in his SuperPac, Independence USA, that helped distance Kelly from her closest opponents, Anthony Beale and Debbie Halvorson.
At a meeting on Chicago’s Northside yesterday, a veritable show of solidarity by grassroots groups taking a personal interest in the race, Kelly responded to the gun issue, saying that she is much more than a single issue candidate. That message is getting through, but it is a difficult road ahead, more so as the NRA and gun lobbying groups will doubtless focus on that issue when she squares off in April against Republican candidate Paul McKinley.
At last night’s meeting, before about 40 supporters and organizers in a small diner on Lincoln Avenue, Kelly confidently asserted her opposition to Citizen’s United, which would, ironically, end the sort of help she got from Bloomberg. But the Bloomberg Factor is only part of the story behind her success grassroots organizations from across the city mobilized support on relatively short notice to canvas the Second district. It was that which outclassed the competitors, which had difficulty building a structure, and who were unable to put enough canvassers on the street to compete with Kelly. She won’t have that luxury in the general election in April against the Republican candidate.
But why Kelly and not one of the other candidates? I put that question to a member of NorthsidePOWER in attendance last night. He indicated that Kelly was the only candidate espousing the same platform as IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice http://www.iiron.org/what-we-believe/values/, which includes social and environmental targets towards a more just and equitable nation. IIRONs expectations for the common good are that “some goods and services in society must be publicly funded and administered for the sake of the common good, and be held accountable to “we the people” through our democratic government. These common goods must be protected from being solely provided on a profit basis or by private entities.” These, according to IIRON, include Health care, Criminal Justice, Education, Elections and Social Security.
The decision to support Kelly was for her stance on numerous social and economic issues approaching the crisis point in the United States. She is pro-choice, and in last night’s meeting began with her position on domestic violence, having had two women close to her murdered by spouses. Foremost in our conversation, and Kelly has expressed an interest to talk in greater detail on our television program in the near future, is the best strategy for a sustainable long term solution to the violence plaguing the 2nd District-Jobs.
Key to that plan for Kelly, and likely the one large piece of the puzzle, which would have a dramatic effect, would be the 3rd airport at Peotone. A 3rd major airport would mean 15-25,000 direct airport jobs, and many more jobs generated to support a vibrant 3rd airport. Kelly was vague, however, regarding how to encourage small businesses, saying the capital would need to be found to assist small businesses, but offered no details on where that capital might be found.
Kelly is refreshingly honest and accessible, which to constituents will be a crucial. She will not have the luxury of pontificating from or hiding in Washington as say a Paul Ryan. The needs of the 2nd District will require not only patience, but will need a hands on approach. Kelly remains unpolished enough to give her critics and opponents plenty of ammunition to attempt to undermine and discredit her. First and foremost is the tendency to admit to doing what her aides tell her to do.
Certainly in the caustic and highly contentious campaign environment of modern American politics, a candidate cannot go it alone. One misstep in an otherwise flawless campaign, for even the best of candidates, can quickly be derailed in our sound-bite culture. Ownership, and a little less of an appreciative public nod to her campaign aides will go a long way for Kelly. But she has garnered support from a number of people and organizations that demand sincerity and accountability in public officials, and for the average voter, that endorsement should go a long way.
More on this to come…
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