Field thins by one to replace Jackson Jr.

Feb. 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM

CHICAGO, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- An Illinois state senator has dropped out of a primary contest to fill Jesse Jackson Jr.'s congressional seat and said she's endorsing one of her opponents.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson dropped out of the primary just nine days before the election, amid a flurry of attack ads being aired by a political action committee funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, critical of her past support for the National Rifle Association's agenda.

Hutchinson said she was supporting her opponent, state Rep. Robin Kelly, to unify the community in the wake of Jackson's sudden and surprising resignation last year. Gun control has loomed large in the special election to fill the seat representing Chicago's South Side, the Chicago Tribune said Sunday.

"Robin is a friend, and has captured momentum in pulling our community together. 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," Hutchinson said in the statement.

Another hopeful, U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, has also been attacked by Bloomberg's PAC on gun control. Halvorson has said she does not support banning assault rifles.

A crowded field of 15 Democrats will be on the ballot for the primary, with now three major players vying for the party's nod in the heavily Democratic district: Kelly, Halverson and Alderman Anthony Beale, who represents Chicago's 9th ward.

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