Tea Party Backs Veteran Over Freshman in Illinois House Race

Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012 01:41 PM

By Dan Weil

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The tea party in Illinois is bucking tradition by backing longtime GOP Rep. Don Manzullo in his primary against freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger. The two are facing off because of redistricting.

Generally, tea partyers work for younger insurgents against veterans. And the tea party played a key role in putting Kinzinger in Congress two years ago. But in this primary campaign, there’s been a reversal of form for the tea party, Politico reports.

A vast majority of influential conservative groups and individuals, many of which backed Kinzinger in 2010, are supporting 20-year incumbent Manzullo, this time around.

“What’s going to make the difference is the fact that I’ve been endorsed by 14 conservative organizations. He’s been endorsed by none,” the feisty Manzullo told Politico, citing FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union, and the Illinois Tea Party as examples.

Kinzinger is a rising star in the House GOP caucus and was named a deputy House whip. Tea partyers are upset with him for a lack of aggressiveness in his votes to cut spending and for his departure from the conservative Republican Study Committee for the more moderate Tuesday Group. Kinzinger also decided against joining the Tea Party Caucus once he entered Congress.

“We backed some guys last time that are a little disappointing, who took votes we don’t support. This is an example of a guy who definitely strayed,” FreedomWorks campaign director Brendan Steinhauser told Politico.

One conservative who isn’t backing Manzullo is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Manzullo is none too happy about that, calling Cantor's actions interference. Cantor has endorsed Kinzinger, and The Young Guns Action Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Cantor, has doled out more than $50,000 for radio ads against Manzullo, The Hill reports.

“He [Cantor] needs to step down as majority leader,” Manzullo told the news service. “Members of our conference don’t trust him, and when you don’t trust someone, you need to replace him.” Manzullo said he has complained to House Speaker John Boehner about the ads.

Cantor’s office didn’t respond directly to Manzullo’s comments, but Cantor campaign spokesman Ray Allen said, “Congressman Cantor had no advance knowledge of, or influence on, the Young Guns super PAC expenditures or activities. Eric endorsed Adam Kinzinger because he believes Adam will do everything in his power to uphold the American Dream and best deliver on our Republican free-market principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual success.”

Manzullo said other GOP House members are angry at Cantor for getting involved in the race, too. “We’re going to win this election. Then Cantor’s going to have to deal with it,” he said.




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