A Republican Illinois congressman whose district includes Iroquois and Ford counties and an arc west of the Chicago area has broken sharply with President Donald Trump and Trump’s base.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who grew up in Bloomington, graduated from Illinois State University and is an Iraq War veteran who still serves in the Air National Guard, suddenly has become the face of never-Trump Republicans in Illinois. There are plenty of them.
Kinzinger has called ongoing efforts by Trump and supportive Republicans to overturn the presidential election results “a scam” and has said he’s worried about where such efforts could take the country and concerned about the future of the Republican Party among younger voters.
Although he’s generally been supportive of Trump policies — he voted with the president more than 90 percent of the time — Kinzinger has not been afraid to break with him on some high-visibility votes, including government shutdowns and military spending. But since the presidential election, Kinzinger has been more outspoken in his criticism and has made regular appearances on CNN.
Kinzinger, who will turn 43 next month, also may be taking the temperature of Republican voters in Illinois. He will need to, given that his congressional district will be different after redistricting this year. It may become more Democratic as it expands. Or Kinzinger could opt to run for a statewide position in 2022.
He told the Chicago Tribune that he’s not lobbing criticism at Trump and his allies “to set myself up to run statewide,” although he also admitted “I’m not going to rule anything out.”
Illinois is not Trump country. There are pockets of strong support, to be sure, but Illinois Republicans like their candidates moderate in the mold of Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George H.W. Bush, the last GOP presidential candidate to win the state.
Trump lost Illinois by 17 percentage points both in 2016 and 2020. And he ran behind Kinzinger and all other successful Republican congressional candidates in the state last year.
Kinzinger outperformed Trump by about 14 percentage points. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, whose district includes Champaign-Urbana, outperformed the president by more than 5 percentage points. Even Rep.-elect Mary Miller, R-Oakland, a political newcomer running in the 15th Congressional District, ran ahead of Trump.
Voters in Champaign County and other parts of the state are saying clearly that Trump is not the future of the Republican Party, not if it wants to be successful. Kinzinger is delivering the political medicine that some Illinois Republicans may resist but most welcome.