Kinzinger: District 'ripe for the turning'

May 17, 2010

Republican Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force pilot running for Congress in upstate Illinois, expects the White House to strongly throw its political weight behind Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), but he’s not worried.

He noted that President Barack Obama only carried the 11th District with 53 percent in 2008 when White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, then chair of the DCCC, made the House seat a top pickup target. Now, Obama’s approval rating is only 45 percent, according to a poll Kinzinger’s campaign commissioned in March.

“They’re not going to let it go quietly, and you know I’m not going to let them take it quietly,” he told POLITICO on Monday. “So I fully expect Obama to come in. I don’t know what the reaction will be. He can obviously raise a lot of money for her. But the district is pretty fed up with business as usual, and that’s what they’ve been getting.”

“Illinois is ripe for the turning,” he added. “If we’re going to take any House seats in Illinois, it’s going to start with this one.”

Kinzinger, 32, thinks having moderate Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) as the party’s Senate nominee will turn out moderates who can help him, and he said he’s not worried conservatives will stay home because he’s at the top of the ticket.

He noted that he’s been endorsed by Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty – three potential Republican candidates for president. Asked about Palin’s endorsement, he said her endorsement did not get a lot of play in the district.

“It doesn’t make like mainstream news in the district or anything like that, but it’s been positive. There’s a lot of people that respect her, respect what she stands for and what she’s kind of out doing…Local media doesn’t cover it too much…If she came into the district, that would be of course different.”

Kinzinger, who has deployed to Iraq three times and Afghanistan twice, said he doesn’t think Obama should have announced a timeline to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan. He praised the surge in Iraq for sending the message to natives that America would get the job done before leaving and touted progress.

“I do believe that history is going to judge the surge as the right move to stabilize a very unstable situation,” he said.

“The war’s basically over,” he added. “We’ve got be vigilant still, but we can begin to draw down.”

On domestic issues, Kinzinger named Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as a thought leader he admires in the party. He also said he’s not opposed to taking earmarks for projects that benefit the district.

The aspiring congressman held elected office before joining the military. As a college student, Kinzinger beat a sitting county commissioner and became the youngest elected official in Illinois.

Eventually that distinction was taken by the younger Aaron Schock, elected to the Peoria school board as a write-in candidate. Schock’s now in the House.

“So the rest is history there,” Kinzinger said. “He took that title from me, but he can have it.”


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