(NBC News) -- It's unclear if the tragic shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School -- as well as the subsequent ones across the country -- will lead to passage of gun-control legislation in Congress. But they might have had this immediate result: transforming the politics and focus inside the Democratic Party, at least in solid-blue districts and states.
Look no farther than Tuesday's upcoming Democratic special congressional primary in Illinois to fill Jesse Jackson Jr.'s vacant seat in the Chicago area, where Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly has become the front-runner, thanks in large part to the issue of guns.
"Robin Kelly has spent her career fighting to get deadly weapons off our streets," goes one of her TV ads. "In Congress, Kelly will keep taking on the NRA, fighting to ban assault weapons and outlaw high-capacity ammunition clips."
A super PAC funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Independence USA, has spent more than $2 million in the race to both endorse Kelly and knock two of her opponents with strong gun-rights records, including former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson (the only white candidate running in this multi-candidate field).
"In the race to replace Jesse Jackson, watch out for Debbie Halvorson. When she was in Congress before, Halvorson got an 'A' from the NRA," argued an Independence USA TV ad, adding: "Debbie Halvorson -- when it comes to preventing gun violence, she gets an 'F.'"
Another ad by the group goes, "In the race for Congress, the big issue -- fighting gun violence. Debbie Halvorson and Toi Hutchison both earned an 'A' from the NRA. They can't be trusted."
(Hutchison has since dropped out of the race and has endorsed Kelly, providing more evidence that Kelly is the candidate to beat on Feb. 26.)
While this is just one race occurring in a city that has been plagued by gun violence, next week's special primary highlights three important points:
1. The National Rifle Association has become anathema to many Democratic voters. That's especially true in the wake of the organization's combative public relations campaign after the Newtown shootings, which included the NRA invoking President Barack Obama's daughters in an advertisement attacking the president. According to last month's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, just 20 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of the NRA, versus 57 percent who had an unfavorable view. (That's compared with 64 percent of Republicans and even 49 percent of independents who hold a favorable view of the organization.) In past Democratic primaries, an NRA endorsement was either a badge of honor or something that at least wasn't viewed as a major liability. That may not be true anymore, at least in congressional districts like this one in Illinois.
2. Bloomberg's organizations have become a countervailing force. Mark Glaze, the executive director for another Bloomberg organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, argues that one of the biggest reasons why gun-control laws have been weakened over the past decade is because "the NRA has been the only game in town." But as the Illinois race has proved, Bloomberg's groups are willing to spend millions in races on behalf of candidates supporting gun control. (Interestingly, the NRA has not spent money in this particular Democratic primary.) As one Democratic strategist tells First Read, "Candidates no longer have to fear the NRA mobilizing disproportionate force against them. They just need some backup."
3. But does this apply outside of urban areas? That could be the biggest question moving forward after Tuesday's race. While the NRA is unpopular with Democrats and while Bloomberg's group have displayed their muscle, does that also hold true in places like West Virginia (where Democrats will be competing to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller) or even in Iowa (which has open Senate and House seats in 2014)? "West Virginia and Illinois will always be different," Glaze says, noting that states like West Virginia have "more hunting, more guns, and less crime." He adds, "That creates a different political dynamic." Indeed, the NRA is running newspaper ads in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina -- where Democratic senators are running for re-election next year -- opposing the Obama administration's gun-control proposals.
Friday, May 24 2013 5:41 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:41:32 GMT
(KCEN) -- While Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer, it really is about veterans. On Monday, veterans will be honored all across central Texas and many events are open to the public. StartingMore >>
While Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer, it really is about veterans.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 4:46 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:46:06 GMT
(KCEN) -- Buckle up this holiday weekend or face steep fines by the DPS. Troopers will be out in full force for this Memorial Day Weekend as part of their annual Click It Or Ticket Campaign. The increasedMore >>
Buckle up this holiday weekend or face steep fines by the DPS.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 11:13 AM EDT2013-05-24 15:13:44 GMT
(KCEN) -- Killeen Police have arrested three men connected with an aggravated robbery. Officers responded to a call at 10 P.M. on May 21 in the 100 block of Twin Creek Drive. The caller stated that thereMore >>
Killeen Police have arrested three men connected with an aggravated robbery.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 9:02 PM EDT2013-05-24 01:02:26 GMT
The Armed Services YMCA has big dreams for a state of the art center in Harker Heights. Thursday they were presented an even bigger check to help make that dream one step closer to a reality. LashondaMore >>
The Armed Services YMCA has big dreams for a state of the art center in Harker Heights. Thursday they were presented an even bigger check to help make that dream one step closer to a reality. More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 6:26 PM EDT2013-05-23 22:26:43 GMT
(KCEN) -- Big news for Boy Scouts and gay activists nationwide. Today, the Boy Scouts of America voted to remove its ban on openly gay scouts. More than 1400 delegates will be voting on this decisionMore >>
Big news for Boy Scouts and gay activists nationwide.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 4:48 PM EDT2013-05-23 20:48:45 GMT
(KCEN) -- There is major accident on the northbound I-35 access road. The accident is just south of exit 306, Pendleton Road. Three cars are involved in the accident and heavy traffic is starting toMore >>
There is major accident on the northbound I-35 access road.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:47 PM EDT2013-05-23 17:47:24 GMT
(KCEN) -- A Fort Hood soldier is accused of helping his friend sexually assault a woman in Austin. Twenty-three-year-old Sergeant Jeremy Bolen is now in the Travis County Jail. He and 28-year-old MichaelMore >>
A Fort Hood soldier is accused of helping his friend sexually assault a woman in Austin.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:36 PM EDT2013-05-23 17:36:37 GMT
(KCEN) -- Victims of the Fort Hood shooting massacre may have to wait a little longer before their civil trial against the government. A motion was filed on May 17 to delay the trial for 14 months. LawyersMore >>
Victims of the Fort Hood shooting massacre may have to wait a little longer before their civil trial against the government.More >>