CHICAGO — Now a member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson) is pushing economic development, not gun control, to the top of her agenda.
"Economic development is the utmost throughout the district," Kelly said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, shortly after being sworn in by House Speaker John Boehner.
"It was a great feeling," she said, calling it "thrilling."
In a separate ceremony, she was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden.
Yet she made it clear that she is not abandoning gun control, the issue that swept her into Congress in the seat formerly occupied by Jesse Jackson Jr. In fact, she said the two issues are related, in that public safety is essential to business vitality and the public's trust.
"They don't want that to be an issue where they live," Kelly said.
Kelly declined to gloat about replacing Jackson, whom she considered a former political ally, or to dwell on the legal troubles that helped drive him from office. "It makes me sad," she said. "Because I care about him and his family."
She said her primary concern was to "get the offices up and running," because it's been about a year since Jackson was active in office. Even at that, she said, she was receiving some help in the transition from his old staff, some of whom will retain their positions.
Kelly expected to persist in Jackson's efforts to bring a third Chicago airport to Peotone, again under the need for economic development. "It is a great priority to me," she said. "We need an economic engine. … I will do everything I can to continue that vision on."
Kelly is pushing for a position on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee, but admitted she is low on the pecking order: "435th out of 435."
She also said she has mended fences with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who initially backed state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) in the special election to replace Jackson, even though Kelly had worked for Preckwinkle at the county.
"I have no animosity," Kelly said. "We've been in contact a lot."