Illinois Democrats’ new congressional map is already shaking up the 2022 elections

Photo of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., speaks before the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on July 27, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Chip Somodevilla / Associated Press
Photo of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., speaks before the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on July 27, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Chip Somodevilla / Associated Press

Illinois Democrats’ new congressional map is already shaking up the 2022 elections

In a big shake-up to Illinois’ political scene, Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger announced Friday he won’t seek re-election while Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Newman dug in and vowed to wage a potentially costly and divisive fight against a fellow suburban Democrat.

Both developments represent the first falling political dominos triggered by the early-morning Friday passage of new Democratic congressional maps that shuffled the state’s political map by targeting both Kinzinger and Newman, among others.

Kinzinger, one of 10 congressional Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, announced his decision in a video message Friday morning. He hinted he may still remain active in politics, though he didn’t say how.

And Newman, of La Grange, made clear her plans to seek a second term in Congress by targeting a seat outside of what would become her home district. Democrats blindsided her by drawing her into longtime U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s majority-Latino congressional district.

Her move sets up a possible primary with Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, of Downers Grove, for the new 6th Congressional District, where Casten lives. The newly drawn 6th Congressional District includes swathes of DuPage County and southwest suburban Cook County.

Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker still must sign the new congressional districts into law.

Kinzinger, a six-term congressman from Channahon, has created a major national profile for himself by doing battle with members of his own party. He’s one of two Republicans to buck House GOP leadership by joining a congressional committee investigating the Trump-fueled Jan. 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In his video statement, Kinzinger accused his fellow members of Congress of being disinterested in bridging the current political divide and lamented the rising costs associated with being elected.

Despite his lamentations, Kinzinger left the door open for a future political campaign.

“This isn’t the end of my political future, but the beginning,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger did not specify if he will seek elected office again. His name has been floated as a potential rival to Pritzker or Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, both of whom are up for re-election in 2022.

Kinzinger’s outspokenness against members of his own party who continue to support Trump has made him something of a pariah within the GOP, as several prominent Republicans continue to support the former president. He used the video statement as a call to support his political action committee, Country First.

“We need to remember who we really are, what we’ve achieved in our darker days and what we’ve always fought for in a brighter future. I know I’m not alone,” he said. “Many Americans are desperately searching for a better way. They want solutions, not more problems. They want action, not extremism. They want light, not darkness.”

Given the national prominence he’s taken on in his role as a critic of his own party, Kinzinger would have had an uphill fight in a potential GOP primary next year, though his congressional campaign had $3.3 million in it as of Sept. 30th.

Illinois Democrats placed Kinzinger’s home in the same district as incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, of Dunlap. Shortly after Kinzinger’s announcement, LaHood released a statement that he intends to run for re-election in the new district if it’s approved. The statement does not mention Kinzinger.

“I look forward to hitting the campaign trail, running a vigorous race, and working hard to win in 2022,” LaHood said.

Late Thursday, a deeply embittered Newman released a harsh statement against leaders of her own party who pushed the new district boundaries.

“This map undoubtedly does not live up to what Illinois residents deserve,” she wrote.

But rather than run against Garcia, Newman announced she intends to target Casten, setting up a high-stakes match between the progressive and moderate wings of Illinois’ Democratic Party.

“I am proud to announce that I am once again running to represent the residents of Chicago’s Southwest Side and our neighbors in the surrounding west and southwest suburbs,” the statement reads. “The lion’s share of this new district is made up of the communities and residents I represent today and I look forward to continuing to serve them in Congress.”

Casten offered a quick rebuttal to her announcement.

“Since the beginning of the redistricting process, I have never wanted to see friends run against friends,” he said. “I believe the shared goal of every House member is to maintain and expand our House majority and work on behalf of all constituents and community members who fought tirelessly to elect us.

“As I said last night, I look forward to continuing to serve the people of the 6th district as we work to make historic investments in climate action, and for families and workers,” he said.

The U.S. Constitution doesn’t require that congressional candidates live within the districts they represent, but it is a rarity for political aspirants to try going that route.

In 2006, before Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth won her current post, she was a candidate for Congress in the northwest and west suburbs. However, she lived a few miles outside of the congressional district she was seeking to represent. It became an issue in the campaign, and in the end, she lost that election narrowly to then-GOP U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam.

No Republican has announced their desire to mount a campaign in the new 6th congressional district yet. Roskam’s Wheaton home is located in a new Latino-heavy district that stretches from suburban West Chicago to Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The same is true for Jeanne Ives, who lost her 2020 campaign against Casten.

Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney cover state politics for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @tonyjarnold and @davemckinney.