In 2010, political newcomer Adam Kinzinger defeated an incumbent Congresswoman, Debbie Halvorson, in the 11th Congressional District. Halvorson, a conservative Democrat, had high marks from the National Rifle Association. Kinzinger had the nascent Tea Party on his side.
What a difference four years makes.
In January, the conservative blog Red State called Kinzinger, now representing Illinois' 16th District, a slimmer version of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. The article also called Kinzinger's challenger, David Hale, "a true Tea Party conservative" and paraphrased Hale's accusation that Kinzinger was positioning himself to replace moderate Republican Mark Kirk in the U.S. Senate.
Hale, founder of the Rockford Tea Party, frequently attacks Kinzinger as "carrying the water" for President Obama, particularly on foreign policy issues. "It's just hard to take that seriously," says Matt Streb, chair of Northern Illinois University's political science department. "Adam Kinzinger is to the right of most Republicans in Congress."
Streb says this reminds him of the 2012 contest between Kinzinger and the 16th District's then-incumbent, Don Manzullo. "Both were arguing over who was the true conservative," he says, "when they were virtually identical on the issues."
The winner of the March 18 primary will face Democrat Randall Olsen in November. You can hear more of Streb's analysis of this race, and the GOP contest in the 11th Congressional District, by clicking the audio link above.