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Robin Kelly aims for Jackson’s seat; Quinn sets April 9 for election



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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:16AM

The field to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr. expanded Sunday as former Illinois state Rep. Robin Kelly announced she is running for the 2nd Congressional District office.

Kelly, who was appointed chief administrative officer for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2011, was chief of staff to former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and ran unsuccessfully to replace him when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. She is a former state representative from Matteson, which is in the 2nd District.

Also Sunday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation setting April 9 as the date for the special election to fill the 2nd District congressional seat of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., of Chicago, who resigned last month amid a federal investigation into use of campaign funds. Jackson cited mental health issues that had kept him away from the House since mid-June. The primary for the special election is Feb 26.

Jackson’s former seat leaves a rare opening in the Democratic-leaning Chicago area district he had held since 1995.

Kelly told supporters on Sunday at a restaurant in Matteson that she remembers many stories she has heard from people in the south suburbs, “working families struggling to make it, fighting hard each and every day for their fair share of the opportunity this country promises its people, and that is why . . . . I’m running for Congress.”

She said she had struggled at times as a single parent to raise two young children, even though she had a master’s degree. As a child, she worked at her family’s mom-and-pop grocery store, where her dad labored seven days a week to provide for his family.

She said she is running for all those in the community “living paycheck to paycheck wondering why the Tea Party Congress spends more time trying to tear down our president than lift up our country,” and to make sure that those who want to repeal the Obama administration’s health-care law fail.

In a Chicago Sun-Times interview, Kelly said her legislative priorities would be transportation, education, economic development and job creation, as well as women’s and veterans’ issues.

She said she supports an airport in Peotone, contending, “I know that would bring economic development and jobs to the area, and also people would not have to travel so far to get to the jobs.

“I feel like I’ve been training for this job for 20 years,” she added. “I’ve worked on every level of government, from municipal to the county and to the state, and I feel like my qualifications, my education, my experience have greatly prepared me for this job.”

Kelly joins a list of candidates that includes state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields, and Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who said Thursday they will run in the special election; former U.S. Rep Debbie Halvorson, of Crete; state Sen. Donne Trotter, of Chicago; state Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris, of Flossmoor, and former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, who held the 2nd District seat for one term before Jackson won the seat.

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