Robin Kelly won the Democratic primary on Feb. 27, 2013, which was a special election to fill the vacated seat of former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Kelly won that primary "special" election by a whopping 52 percent of the vote, winning the Democratic nomination against a crowded field of Democrats. She defeated a formidable field of 16 candidates that included; two former members of the House of Representatives, a sitting Chicago alderman and an Illinois state senator from the south suburbs. Kelly was the "right candidate, with the right message, at the right time."
Kelly's winning campaign was one of the best-run "grassroots" political campaigns in recent memory, garnering national attention on the issue of "gun control" and indelibly branding Kelly as a respected leader on the issue of reducing gun violence on the streets of America.
During the campaign, Kelly received significant early support from Markos "kos" Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, which was the "grassroots" tipping point in the campaign. Markos raised over $140,000 from more than 6,000 individual donors that went directly to the Kelly campaign. Markos also supplied hundreds of "campaign ground troops" for Kelly, in support of her stance for stiffer gun control and her fight against the NRA.
"We’ve shown that we can make a difference in the voting booth too," NBC News quotes Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who is leading former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $50 million dollar charge against the National Rifle Association (NRA). Watts was specifically referring to Kelly's victory last year.
Kelly's victory dealt a strong blow to the NRA and forced them to change their political strategy. Since that election, Kelly has become a strong voice on behalf of stronger gun control, receiving praise from such supporters of "common sense gun laws." During her victory speech many “gun control” advocates, including Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendleton, the parents of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton, surrounded Kelly on stage.
Kelly has served in the House for over a year, and reducing gun violence is high on her agenda. Her first House floor speech was about "gun control." Last Friday, once again, Kelly delivered on speech on the floor of the House about "gun control." Kelly was imploring her colleagues to pass what she calls "common sense" gun laws to help reduce the violence in the streets of Chicago, the 2nd Illinois' Congressional district and the streets of America.
"On Saturday, a gunman walked into a mall in Columbia, Maryland and opened fire, killing two people before taking his own life, said Kelly. "Prior to the mall shooting, we saw six school shootings take place nationwide in just 10 days. Countless other Americans are terrorized each day on streets that have become shooting galleries, where kids aren’t safe to walk to school or go to the corner store or sit on their own front porches," said Kelly.
As she pause, she said, "And yet we do nothing."
"Time and time again, despite the headlines and the bloodshed and the pleas from the parents of the victims to act, Congress has failed to pass common sense gun reforms that would save thousands of American lives – including background checks, which are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans," said Kelly.
Kelly argued that America has "developed a collective indifference to the killings," in spite of the continuing tragedies such as Columbine and Newtown. "After each shooting, we shrug and move on, dismissing the mass shootings as isolated incidents and ignoring the everyday shootings all together. Sadly, a callous has formed where our compassion should be. Or is it that the gun lobby’s agenda has taken the place of our country’s conscience?"
Kelly said that she is "at a loss" in understanding how we can "continue to ignore the public health epidemic that is gun violence in America?"
"What will it take?" she asks. "How many more of our children must die, of our mothers must weep, before we do the right thing?" Kelly called the gun violence a "slow motion plague that is killing off our kids one day at a time."
Kelly put a name to the tragedies, singling out a highly-publicized shooting and killing of one of "our best and brightest, like 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed a year ago this week while standing in a park with friends."
It was Hadiya who was killed a "week after performing for President Obama’s inauguration. She was certainly one of my district’s shining stars. But she was by far not the only one. There were many Hadiyas, young people with promise and potential who were felled by gun violence. They had mothers who loved them, communities who mourn them.
Kelly then started naming some of them, one-by-one: "Eva Casara, 17; Tyrone Lawson, 17; Maurice Knowles, 16; Darnell Williams, 17; Abdullah Trull, 16; Leonard Anderson, 17; Jaleel Pearson, 18; Malcolm Whitney, 16; Fearro Denard, 18; Tyshon Anderson, 18; Tyrone Hart, 18; Ashaya Miller, 15; Equiel Velasquez, 17; Christopher Lattin Jr, 15; Rey Donantas, 14; Victor Vegas, 15; Tyrone Lawson, 17; Antonio Fenner, 16; Frances Colon, 18; Jorge Valdez - Benitez, 18; Oscar Marquez, 17; Jonyla Watkins, 6 months old; Arrell Monegan, 16; Victor Damian, 15; Clifton Barrney, 17; Miguel Delaluz, 17; Leetema Daniels, 17; Fearro Denard, 18; Patrick Sykes, 15; Dionte Maxwell, 18; Miguel Villegas, 15; April McDaniel, 18; Fernando Mondragon, 18; Kevin Rivera, 16; Ricardo Herrera, 17; Alexander Lagunas, 18."
"I stand here in honor of their memories, asking my colleagues to get serious about gun reform and to pass legislation to help stem the tide of shootings in this country," said Kelly. "I one day hope to never have to add another name to this list."
As do we all.
Transcript of speech delivered on House floor, May 8, 2014