She easily won over Republican community activist Paul McKinley, three independent candidates and a Green Party candidate in the district that includes city neighborhoods, suburbs and rural areas.
Her win also marked the end of an era for voters who had supported Jackson at the polls with healthy majorities each election after he took office. The Chicago Democrat stepped down in November after a mysterious medical leave where full details were never disclosed to the public. He cited his health and acknowledged he was under federal investigation in his resignation letter.
Months later — as campaigning to replace him ramped up — he pleaded guilty to charges that he misspent $750,000 in campaign funds on everything from toilet paper to furs.
Jackson was the third congressman in the district to leave under an ethical cloud, and many voters said Tuesday that they were just ready for a change.
"It hurt my heart. I had him way up here on a pedestal," said Robert Pierson, a Dolton resident who cast a ballot for Kelly on Tuesday. "I hope this time we are going to get it right."
Other voters said it was Kelly's attention to anti-gun efforts that made her an attractive candidate. Guns became the top issue during the campaign — particularly before the primary — and ads from Bloomberg's PAC played up that Kelly supports an assault weapons ban. The television spots also targeted one of her primary opponents, former one-term U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who has received favorable ratings from the National Rifle Association.
Some voters, and certainly Kelly's political opponents, questioned the outside involvement. There were allegations of Kelly colluding with Bloomberg, which is prohibited. She dismissed those claims.