Gun-Control Advocate’s Win in Illinois Is Also a Win for Bloomberg

After a career that has spanned high finance, philanthropy and public office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may have found his next act: defeating candidates who oppose gun control.

The victory on Tuesday night of a Bloomberg-backed candidate for Congress in Illinois suggests that his fledgling attempt to become a one-man political counterweight to the powerful National Rifle Association is gaining traction.

Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire independent, had injected $2.2 million of his own money into the special Democratic primary for the House seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr., all but turning the campaign into a referendum on gun regulation in the wake of the massacre last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But as much as anything else, it was a test of Mr. Bloomberg’s potency in races well outside of New York – a test watched closely by lawmakers in Washington who are still on the fence about President Obama’s gun-control plans and who could become the next target of the mayor’s campaign spending.

With Mr. Bloomberg and his cash at her back, Robin Kelly, once well behind in the polls, easily defeated her Democratic opponents for the Chicago-area seat. Much of that money was devoted to attacking Ms. Kelly’s leading opponent, Debbie Halvorson for opposing various gun-control measures. “Debbie Halvorson’s record,” blared a commercial paid for by Mr. Bloomberg. “More guns in the hands of criminals.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, has become involved in eight state and Congressional races since its creation last year: five of the candidates he has backed, all of them supporters of gun regulation, have prevailed; three have lost.

Howard Wolfson, a deputy in the Bloomberg administration who briefly led the mayor’s new super PAC, called the Illinois race a bellwether in the national gun debate.

“Anybody watching this race saw a decisive victory for the candidate who had a long record of support for common sense gun law and a repudiation of the candidate who had run with N.R.A. support,” he said. “That will resonate with members of Congress who are considering this issue as we speak.”

“For a long time the N.R.A. was the only player on the field,” Mr. Wolfson added. “And members had to take that into account. Now the mayor is helping to even that out.”

Ms. Halvorson, a former Congresswoman, complained bitterly about Mr. Bloomberg’s intervention in the race, accusing him of trying to “buy a Congressional seat.”

“This is what’s wrong with super PACS,” she told a local television station in the days before the election. “Somebody can come in, spend all the money they want. In this case, it’s one person, one billionaire from New York.”

Despite charges of meddling and whispers about carpetbagging, Mr. Bloomberg’s advertising blitz helped achieve its aim. Mr. Bloomberg learned of Ms. Kelly’s victory on Tuesday night via a text message from Mr. Wolfson. “Good job,” he replied.

Given the district’s heavy Democratic makeup, Ms. Kelly is widely expected to win the general election in April.

In Chicago, the gun debate loomed large as both a national and local issue: a surging murder rate has riveted the city and amplified Mr. Bloomberg’s message.

Mr. Bloomberg is just warming up, electorally. He and his aides are already scouting out future races, making little secret of their plans to open his wallet in support of Democrats or Republicans who share his views on guns.

On Wednesday, he will take his message to Washington. He has meetings scheduled with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and leaders of the Senate, including John McCain and Harry Reid. The topic: guns.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin WordPress | Android Forums | WordPress Tutorials
Go to Source