Establishment Congressman Versus Insurgent In GOP Primary

Mar 8, 2016

Matt Streb, NIU political scientist

Illinois' 6th Congressional District pits a leader in the House Republican caucus against a GOP insurgent who blends Donald Trump-like rhetoric with a Tea-Party platform.

The seat is held by Peter Roskam, first elected in 2006. This year he faces a primary challenge from Gordon "Jay" Kinzler, a Glenn Ellyn surgeon and Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve.

Kinzler borrows some of Trump's campaign themes, according to Matt Streb who chairs the political science department at Northern Illinois University.

"He wants to build a wall and says a wall is effective," Streb says, referring to Trump's proposed barrier along the southern U.S. border. "And Roskam is saying a wall is not effective, especially in rural areas."

Peter Roskam, left, and Gordon "Jay" Kinzler

Streb says Kinzler departs from Trump's platform when attacking Roskam's record in the House. "He attacked Roskam for voting to raise the debt ceiling, and for supporting a budget that had funding for Planned Parenthood," Streb says.

According to Streb, however, Roskam is anything but moderate. "He voted with the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 100% of the time," Streb says. "So he's a social conservative and a fiscal conservative, but Kinzler is trying to make him out to be not conservative enough."

Despite this, Streb says, Roskam's campaign fund has "an overwhelming amount of money." At the end of 2015, the incumbent had more than a million dollars in cash; Kinzler had $41,000.

Streb would be surprised if Roskam lost this primary, but says he stopped saying "never" after former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost in the Virginia primary two years ago. Cantor's loss to a relative unknown, David Brat, remains one of the biggest upsets in modern political history.

Robert Marshall, left, and Amanda Howland

Could such an upset occur this November involving a Democrat? Streb says that's even less likely, noting the Democratic primary candidates, Robert Marshall and Amanda Howland, raised less money than Kinzler in this solidly conservative district.

In the interview link above, Streb examines the race in the 11th Congressional District, where three Republicans are competing to challenge incumbent Democrat Bill Foster who's unopposed in the primary.

Tomorrow, Streb examines the primaries in the 14th and 8th Congressional Districts.