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Halvorson blasts NYC Mayor Bloomberg, says he’s trying ‘to buy this district’

Debbie Halvorscandidate Second Congressional District talks reporters Monday about her views New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's role special election.

Debbie Halvorson, a candidate in the Second Congressional District, talks to reporters Monday about her views of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's role in the special election. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 20, 2013 6:36AM

Second Congressional District candidate Debbie Halvorson on Monday accused New York City Mayor — and billionaire — Michael Bloomberg of trying to “purchase this election” from out of state, as new filings showed his SuperPAC’s spending on the Illinois race has now topped $2 million.

That’s one and a half times the amount of money raised by the top three candidates combined in the race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.

“We cannot allow Bloomberg to buy this district from New York,” Halvorson said at a news conference Monday.

Halvorson is in a bitter battle over the seat, and her opposition to an assault weapons ban has repeatedly been targeted in TV ads purchased by Bloomberg’s Independence USA Pac. The committee is taking aim at candidates throughout the country who do not back President Barack Obama’s gun violence proposals. Halvorson has had scant financial firepower to defend herself — she has raised less than $50,000 on her own — and about half of that money she loaned to herself.

Halvorson accused her top opponent — Robin Kelly — of improperly coordinating with Bloomberg’s political action committee. She cited the publication, Capitol Fax, which in a Feb. 1 item quoted an anonymous source saying that Kelly told donors Bloomberg would target Halvorson and another candidate, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson. When asked if that was her only evidence, Halvorson replied that was all she needed – on top of Hutchinson dropping out of the race Sunday — after she began being targeted by the ads. Hutchinson put her support behind Kelly.

“All of this truly raises eyebrows and questions surrounding Bloomberg’s attempt to purchase this election,” Halvorson said.

Kelly’s campaign flatly denied Halvorson’s claims on Monday, countering that Halvorson had gone “off the rails.”

After the 2nd District debate Monday, Kelly responded to questions about Bloomberg’s role, saying, “It’s ridiculous. I have nothing to do with what he’s doing, I never did. So whatever people are saying is untrue and ridiculous. I don’t know the man.”

“I have no contact with him. I don’t know him, never saw him, never been in the same room with him,” Kelly said. “I just think these are desperate measures.”

Asked whether Bloomberg’s money would be a deciding factor, Kelly said she would see after 7 p.m. Feb. 26. “I’m running my race. Regardless of Bloomberg, I’m running my race,” she said.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show Bloomberg’s SuperPac spending was at $2.1 million as of Sunday, which included a $700,000 TV buy to back Kelly, a former state representative.

Halvorson has held an A rating with the NRA. She said she supports “common sense” laws to combat gun violence, including universal background checks and a federal gun trafficking law.

A message left for Mayor Bloomberg was forwarded to his political action committee.

Stefan Friedman, spokesman for Independence USA, said the “scourge of gun violence knows no state boundaries.”

“Mayor Bloomberg has been clear that whether it’s in New York, Illinois, California or anywhere else, he is committed to getting guns out of the hands of criminals by supporting President Obama’s gun safety package. Debbie Halvorson opposes President Obama’s proposal, and it is important that voters get the facts about her record.”

Another candidate in the race, Ald. Anthony Beale, says he had done more to combat gun violence than Kelly, charging that she “latched onto” the issue “to win an election.”

“We are letting a New York billionaire and the mayor of New York City dictate the terms and possibly the outcome of the 2nd District special election. Voters deserve better,” Beale said.

Contributing: Casey Toner

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