CHICAGO — Charges of political collusion, buying the election and sheer desperation flew Monday in the 2nd Congressional District race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.
Debbie Halvorson, a former one-term member of Congress, said the race had been "compromised" by a Political Action Committee operated by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That PAC, Independence USA, has spent an estimated $1.4 million on TV ads citing Halvorson's past support from the National Rifle Association.
Halvorson, of Crete, offered a Feb. 1 post on the Capitol Fax blog as proof of collusion between Kelly and the Super PAC. The post said Kelly had been talking for weeks of Bloomberg's support on the gun issue and mentioned how he would turn his attack on state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) weeks before the ads actually dragged her into the gun debate.
Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts of money, but are forbidden from actually working in tandem with a candidate on political strategy. Halvorson called for an investigation by the Federal Election Commission, just over a week before the Democratic Primary Feb. 26.
Hutchinson dropped out of the race Sunday and threw her support behind Kelly, of south suburban Matteson, a key move in the 15-person race, where a candidate could conceivably win with less than 10 percent of the vote.
Kelly's campaign fired back at Halvorson, citing her recent concealed-carry training and her resistance to a ban on assault weapons. Kelly's campaign issued a statement saying the charges are "unsubstantiated" and reach "a new level of desperation" and that Halvorson "can't shoot straight."
“Debbie Halvorson’s conspiracy theories are wildly off target,” said Jon Blair, Kelly's campaign manager. “The simple truth is that Debbie Halvorson has an A rating from the NRA and opposes the kind of common-sense gun-safety legislation that would make our streets safer. Her absurd accusations are just another attempt at distraction, and nothing more.”
Kelly has pounded gun control as a key issue and has been backed on that by the Super PAC ads.
"Ms. Halvorson's false attacks are designed to distract voters from the fact that she got an A+ from the NRA and opposes an assault-weapons ban," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for Independence USA. "Voters in the 2nd District won't be fooled."
Jackson resigned the seat in November shortly after winning re-election — and defeating Halvorson handily in the Democratic Primary a year ago. He was charged with conspiracy and misuse of campaign funds Friday and is expected to plead guilty.
DNAinfo.com New York reporter/producer Jill Colvin contributed to this story.