Politics

Why Does GOP House Member Adam Kinzinger Keep Voting With the Democrats? Redistricting Is Why

Adam Kinzinger is a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois.

Kinzinger is currently serving his fifth term in office and has maintained an overwhelmingly conservative voting record until just recently.  He has very low ratings from the “usual suspects” among liberal interest groups, and they claim he voted in favor of Trump Administration policies 95% of the time.

He was rumored at one point to be a candidate for Secretary of the Air Force during the Trump Administration, having served in the Air Force and Air National Guard since 2003, and currently holds the rank of Lt. Colonel as a tanker and reconnaissance aircraft pilot.

But Kinzinger has become the GOP Congressman that conservatives love to hate.

Kinzinger was an early critic of what was described as “QAnon conspiracies.”

He voted against impeachment in early 2020 regarding Ukraine, but in January 2021, he voted for the impeachment of President Trump with regard to his actions ahead of the January 6 protests at the Capital.

Earlier this week he voted in favor of background checks for the purchase of firearms.

What are we to make of the tangent that Adam Kinzinger has taken with his recent actions?

A motivating factor for his turn to the center likely has something to do with the fact is that Illinois is almost certain to lose one of its 18 congressional seats after the 2020 Census is complete.  Both houses of the Illinois Legislature are controlled by Democrats, and it is a near certainty that it will be a district held by a GOP House member that is eliminated in the redrawing of boundaries for 17 — rather than 18 — congressional districts.

The current map of congressional districts created in 2011 has resulted in an Illinois delegation that has a partisan division of  13 Democrats and 5 Republicans.  There is some chatter in political circles that when redrawing the Illinois map based on the 2020 census, Illinois will eliminate one of the five GOP districts.  The redrawn map might also be used to strengthen more marginal Democrat help districts and at the same time weaken one of the remaining four GOP districts by moving Democrat voters from the eliminated district to one of the GOP districts.

Currently, four of the five GOP-held districts are in the southern half of the state, and share borders with Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky — all solidly red states.

The only other GOP-held district is more central, touching on the border of Wisconsin to the north, and Indiana to the east — wrapping itself around the Chicago metropolitan area.  That is Illinois’ 16th Congressional District — Adam Kinzinger’s district.

Some published models for redrawing Illionois’ electoral map show Kinzinger’s 16th District being eliminated, with portions of his district being moved in five Democrat-held districts that surround it.

If Kinzinger wanted to continue his career in Congress he would have two choices — run in a primary against one of the other GOP incumbents in the four districts in southern Illinois, or challenge a Democrat incumbent in one of the districts where he is at now.

A quirk of the Consitution that many do not realize is that a member of the House is not required to live in the congressional district they represent.  The only requirement in the Constitution with regard to residency is that the member of Congress “be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen,” according to Article I, Section 2.

State laws cannot require residency within a congressional district because that would be a de facto amendment of Article I, Section 2.

But, as a political matter, it would be impossible for Kinzinger to run for one of the four GOP-held districts without moving from his home near Joliet to a location in the southern end of the state.

That means that in order to have a future in Congress, he’s going to be forced to take on a Democrat incumbent in one of the districts surrounding his current district.

His best option would probably be Illinois’s Third District, which has a freshman Democrat who had been a political consultant for many years but had never run for office before.  She is a Sanders supporter, and had the endorsement of AOC and “The Squad.”  The district has a partisan index of only +6, although it is likely the Democrats will try to strengthen this district as part of redistricting.

But the fact of the matter is that Kinzinger — if he seeks re-election — will likely have to do so in a new district that is more Democrat than GOP, and certainly more moderate than his old district which he won four times with more than 60% of the vote.

The art of politics is selecting the right nominees in the right places.  Winning closely divided districts requires fielding candidates who can draw votes away from the opponent, or draw in the “squishy” voters who live in between the two parties’ ideologies.

I’m not sure the GOP can field a better candidate than a five-time winner of the suburban Chicago district where Kinzinger is going to be forced to run, and his voting record is going to be an issue in that election.

Winning 218 or more seats in the next election of the House is the goal, and that goal is bigger than any single vote in the House.


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