Local and national Democrats are mobilizing against former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, the front-runner for next week’s Democrat primary in Illinois’ special congressional election. The special election is to fill the term of disgraced Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who recently pled guilty to campaign fraud. Halvorson has run afoul of the current Democrat dogma on guns, staking out a strong position in support of gun rights.
Halvorson supports universal background checks and gun registration, but opposes a ban on “assault weapons.” Up until a few months ago, this would have been a fairly mainstream Democrat position on guns. In the wake of Obama’s push for stricter gun control measures, however, it has become heresy for most of the party. Not only are outside interests, like Michael Bloomberg’s SuperPac, targeting Halvorson with millions of dollars worth of negative ads; local party officials are trying to pressure other candidates to get out of the race to improve their chances of defeating her.
This weekend, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who at one time was Halvorson’s chief of staff, announced that she was dropping out of the race and endorsing Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), who is the choice of the local Democrat machine. Hutchinson had also been targeted by Bloomberg’s PAC for having “moderate” positions on guns. She had also recently been attacked for old contracts she had given her mother for campaign work.
Including Halvorson, there are still around 15 candidates vying in next week’s primary. Halvorson, however, is the only white candidate, and local democrats have expressed concern the she could win with such a fractured African-American vote. The 2nd District is anchored in Chicago’s South Side, but also includes a large number of suburban and rural voters.
Normally, this would be a very local political issue. Halvorson’s open support for gun rights, however, puts her at odds with a major policy push of her national party. Not long ago, she was a rising star in the Democrat party. During the 2008 DNC convention, when she was a first-time candidate for Congress, she was featured prominently on the stage immediately before Hillary Clinton spoke.
At a recent appearance at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church, she recalled how Obama himself had urged her to run for Congress in 2008. Her position on one issue, however, seems to have left her out in the cold.
The purge of pro-gun Democrats isn’t just confined to Halvorson, though. Georgia Democrat John Barrow has been the subject of a barrage of negative ads from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence over his support for gun rights.
Pro-life Democrats were long ago made to feel uninvited by their national party. The same purge seems to be happening to pro-gun Democrats. The Democrat Party embraces a diversity of views, as long as one’s diverse views conform exactly with the party’s.