Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Tuesday called Democratic efforts to bolster election-denying candidates in Republican primaries “disgusting,” accusing Democrats of taking too lightly the threat Kinzinger said those candidates pose to U.S. democracy.
Maneuvering to aid opponents they see as more easily beatable in November’s general election, Democratic groups have worked behind the scenes in GOP primaries to back gubernatorial candidates like Darren Bailey in Illinois, Kari Lake in Arizona and and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, all of whom have refused to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. But such plans could backfire, Kinzinger (R-Ill.) warned, if those candidates end up beating their Democrat opponents.
“I think it is disgusting,” Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the House special committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, told CNN on Tuesday. “Look at Darren Bailey in Illinois, an election-denier. [Illinois Gov. J.B.] Pritzker spent tens of millions of dollars so that [Bailey] would win. Yeah, Pritzker has a little bit of an advantage right now. Good Republican year, Bailey may win.”
Pritzker’s campaign manager Mike Ollen declined to comment to POLITICO on Kinzinger’s criticism.
Democrats wading into GOP primaries, Kinzinger said, amounts to “let’s promote the crazy and that person wins, you don’t understand the real threat. I’m sorry, you don’t understand the threat to democracy.”
The Democratic Governors Association, to which Pritzker donated $24 million earlier this year, spent $35 million buying ads that boosted Bailey’s profile as a Republican candidate, while attacking a more moderate Republican candidate, Aurora, Illinois, Mayor Richard Irvin. The total spending on the race so far has put the Illinois’ gubernatorial contest on track to become the most expensive election for a nonpresidential office in American history.
The push by some Democrats to elevate election-denying or otherwise further-right Republicans into general elections across the country has also come as the House Jan. 6 committee has worked this summer to lay out the origins of the Capitol insurrection and the threat that its architects still pose. Kinzinger said many Democrats, despite campaigning loudly as a party on the Jan. 6 insurrection, still fail to appreciate the threat.
“While I think a certain number of Democrats truly understand that democracy is threatened, don’t come to me after having spent money supporting an election denier in a primary, and then come to me and say, where are all the good Republicans?” Kinzinger said.
The Democratic Governors Association, for its part, has argued that efforts to weigh in on GOP primaries amount to proactive efforts to win upcoming general elections.
“The DGA wasted no time in educating the public about these Republicans. These elected and formerly elected officials want to deceptively retell their histories, and we’re just filling in the gaps,” said Christina Amestoy, the Senior Campaign Communications Advisor for the Democratic Governors Association.