Toi Hutchinson exited the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacated US House seat, narrowing the field of potential replacements.
The state senator also threw her support behind another Democrat in the race, which has seen gun control become a central issue.
Hutchinson endorsed former state Rep. Robin Kelly in a move that comes just nine days before the February 26 primary, reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
Hutchinson explained her reason for exiting the race by saying:
“I am simply unwilling to risk playing a role going forward that could result in dividing our community at a time when we need unity more than ever.”
She added that she agreed with Robin’s stance on gun control, “in the wake of horrendous gun related crimes all across our country.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, targeted Toi in recent days over her stance on gun control.
Hutchinson’s choice to exit the race leaves three major Democrats in play in a field of 15 candidates, according to The Chicago Tribune. The remaining top Democrats are Robin Kelly, US Representative Debbie Halvorson, and 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale.
In the past, Hutchinson had supported the National Rifle Association. Following the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, however, she campaigned a much more moderate stance. But her change of heart was questioned by Kelly, who believed it was more about politics than something she genuinely felt.
Now, however, Kelly has said he is pleased to have her backing. He added in a statement:
“In Congress, I will work with Senator Hutchinson… and other leaders throughout our district to get guns off our streets and bring jobs to our neighborhoods.”
The special election was triggered after Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from his position as part of a plea deal in November. Jackson has been charged with conspiracy for allegedly misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. Hutchinson’s exit from the race was unexpected, but will bring another dynamic into the race to replace Jackson.