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Editorial: For Robin Kelly, now the hard part

RobKelly speaks supporters Holiday Inn Mattesfollowing her wspecial Democratic primary for 2nd Congressional District seFebruary 26 2013.  | JessicKoscielniak

Robin Kelly speaks to supporters at the Holiday Inn Matteson following her win in the special Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat, February 26, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times

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Updated: April 1, 2013 11:49AM

The ease with which Robin Kelly won the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 2nd District disguises a sobering fact: She’s close to taking on a job that will be awfully hard.

Given the way her predecessor, Jesse Jackson Jr., all but abandoned the district, expectations are high for Kelly — she sure can’t do much worse. But if she triumphs in April 9’s special election as expected in this heavily Democratic district, she will represent a constituency facing stiff economic challenges. And she will be a member of the minority party in the House of Representatives, where nobody doles out federal money the way they used to.

Kelly’s first order of business, then, will be to find partners who can help her. She will have to work her district from the ground up, cultivating relationships with businesses, local political leaders, the police and dozens of others to create more jobs and lower crime.

We trust Kelly will continue, as well, to hammer away for reasonable new gun controls. Her congressional race was the first since the Nov. 6 election and the first since the massacre at a school in Newtown, Conn. In a political twist that caught the nation’s attention, she turned the National Rifle Association’s “A” rating for one of her major opponents, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, into a scarlet A.

Bucking conventional wisdom that says Democratic candidates who favor stronger firearms laws should talk as little as possible about guns, Kelly proudly campaigned on her NRA “F” rating, drawing millions of dollars in financing from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s SuperPAC. Whether her victory is a bellwether for elections to come remains to be seen.

In her victory speech Tuesday, Kelly promised to help lead the fight for stiffer federal gun laws and said of the NRA, “Their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end.”

Halvorson and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who also was in the 14-person race, didn’t see it that way. They complained that Bloomberg’s money made all the difference in an election in which only about 14 percent of registered voters braved a winter storm to get to the polls.

Robin Kelly’s work is cut out for her.

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