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Bloomberg, guns become issue in Illinois House race

An early test of the political power of the gun-control issue in the post-Sandy Hook environment and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to make it an issue could be developing in Illinois.

It’s being played out in the special election coming up to fill the House seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned shortly after being re-elected under the specter of a Justice Department investigation. 

Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC is spending more than $400,000 on independent expenditure ads, attacking one of the candidates, former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson, over her opposition to an assault-weapons ban. 

Halvorson, who lost to Jackson last fall by a 42-percentage point margin when their districts were merged after the 2010 redistricting, has accused Bloomberg of trying to “buy an election in Illinois.”

Gun control is also an issue for another candidate, State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. In her first race for the state legislature, she opposed a ban on semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines, the reporting of stolen firearms and supported the right to carry a concealed weapon.

Hutchinson, once Halvorson’s chief of staff, now reversed those positions. She told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board that she switched after the Sandy Hook School shootings.