Has Adam Kinzinger already lost his House seat?

Ting Shen/Pool via AP

He was all but certain to lose it at the ballot box in his primary next year. But he might not get even that far thanks to redistricting.

His home state of Illinois released its proposed redistricting map today and Kinzinger ended up drawing the short straw. Illinois is losing a House seat due to national population shifts but Democrats are fortunate in that they control all of state government. Their redistricting process also allows them to redraw the lines for partisan reasons instead of outsourcing the task to an independent commission, which means Republicans were destined to get screwed. Really screwed, it turns out: Currently the state’s 18 districts are split 13-5 in favor of Dems but the new map makes it likely that the 17 they’ll have in 2024 will split 14-3.

Democrats are going to gain a seat in a Democratic-controlled state that’s lagging in population growth.

Kinzinger currently represents Illinois’ 16th District, which is R+10. The new map slices and dices the 16th in order to redistribute its pockets of Democratic voters to other districts where they’ll help shore up Democratic incumbents there. Kinzinger’s home is now located in the new Third District, much less favorable territory for a Republican:

D+6. The Third District is represented by freshman Democrat Marie Newman, who won her House seat by 13 points last fall but only after narrowly defeating longtime Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary. Lipinski was a longtime hate object for progressives, having voted against ObamaCare in 2010 and opposed abortion throughout his career. He won eight terms in his district, though, evidence that there’s a centrist streak there that might be open to electing a moderate Republican like Kinzinger, especially in a Republican-friendly environment like 2022. Some election-watchers believe Newman is vulnerable, in fact:

Is Kinzinger going to take her on?

Well, first, he’s going to challenge the new map:

He’s known for months that he was likely to be redistricted out and has been mulling the possibility of a statewide run next year instead. I’m not sure why. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Gov. J.B. Pritzker each won their last elections by double digits. Even a national environment that favors Republicans and Kinzinger’s image as a centrist are unlikely to make him competitive in Illinois. In fact, because MAGA voters hate him for his anti-Trumpism, he’d likely perform worse statewide than a no-name replacement-level Republican nominee would.

Which also probably explains why Dems didn’t hesitate to redistrict him out even though he’s become an “anti-Republican Republican,” one of two GOPers serving on the January 6 committee. If Democrats knew for a fact that Kinzinger would be renominated by the GOP, maybe they would have drawn the new map differently to try to keep him in office. If they’re stuck with having at least three red districts in their state, they might as well hand one of them to someone who’ll side with Dems and against his own party in some disputes, right?

But since he’s apt to lose his next primary, placing him in a safe-Republican district wouldn’t benefit him. It would benefit his primary opponent. Dems might inadvertently hand the seat to a devout Trumper for the next decade.

So what does Kinzinger do now? Run statewide anyway and endure Trump endorsing one of his Republican primary opponents, dooming his chances? (GOP Rep. Rodney Davis is also being redistricted out and has considered running statewide. Trump would doubtless prefer him as nominee to Kinzinger.) A party that was focused on the bottom-line matter of flipping Democratic seats and retaking the House might actually prefer Kinzinger as its nominee against Newman since he has higher name recognition than most local Republicans and a big war chest thanks to donations he’s received from anti-Trumpers. He also has enough bipartisan cred at this point that he might be able to flip a few Lipinski Democrats into the Republican column.

But as we were reminded a few days ago, the GOP’s electoral success is now secondary to protecting Trump’s ego. Kinzinger has to pay for supporting impeachment, even if that means the party passing on its best general-election option in the new Third District. He’s headed for retirement, I’m sure. Maybe he’ll focus on his new “Country First” PAC and try to recruit a primary challenger to Trump in 2024.

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