Smith said he’s received “hundreds upon hundreds” of emails, texts and phone calls from within the county and beyond “expressing frustration” at Kinzinger’s attitude and actions.
The results of the county vote were announced the same day Kinzinger and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney defended their support for impeaching the former president amid critiques from fellow House Republicans. Both lawmakers, who were among the 10 Republicans to vote with Democrats against Trump, have become a symbol of the GOP’s national schism over the party’s direction.
At least one Republican says lawmakers will pay for their votes back home.
“Tonight Liz Cheney was fighting on her home turf — Washington D.C. And if Washington won’t hold her accountable for her failed leadership, Wyoming will,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement, according to Playbook.
Kinzinger hasn’t shied away from his vote — and has recently said he wishes he had voted to impeach Trump the first time, too.
During Wednesday’s lengthy House GOP caucus meeting, Kinzinger told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy it was “embarrassing” that the party spent more time defending Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) than Cheney, according to a source familiar with the discussion. Greene is facing calls from Democrats that she be removed from her assignments to the House education and budget committees and plan to hold a floor vote to strip her of them Thursday.
Cheney was at risk of losing her leadership spot over the impeachment vote but McCarthy went on to give “a full-throated defense” of her, and the caucus voted to let her keep her leadership position on a 2-1 margin.
Kinzinger issued a statement Thursday morning saying he “proudly voted” to support Cheney as conference chair and that he’s “committed to restoring our party.”
Though the LaSalle County GOP’s vote to censure is symbolic, it also signals that Kinzinger doesn’t have the full support of Republicans who overwhelmingly reelected him in November. It may also fuel speculation about how Kinzinger, who had been talked about in Republican circles as a potential Senate or gubernatorial candidate, is calculating his political future.
Some of Kinzinger’s critics had gathered in Ottawa, Ill., the county seat of LaSalle and the site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate, a few days before the vote to call out the congressman, the media and others as they falsely claimed Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
LaSalle County sits south and west of Chicago and is one of nine counties in Kinzinger’s 16th Congressional District. He also represents parts of five other counties. LaSalle isn’t seen as a key GOP organization in the state. It’s historically more of a union county that’s trended red in recent years — backing Kinzinger and Trump — overwhelmingly. But it also has elected a Democratic state representative.
In a statement, Kinzinger spokeswoman Maura Gillespie responded to the censure vote, saying: “While Capitol Police Officer [Brian] Sicknick was being honored in state for his ultimate sacrifice — defending our democracy — the LaSalle County GOP was condemning Congressman Kinzinger for trying to hold the president accountable for the actions that led to his death.”
The Illinois Republican Party hasn’t made any clear moves to censure Kinzinger, but that could change depending on who gets elected its new chair on Saturday.
Lake County Republican Chair Mark Shaw and former Illinois Gaming Board executive and former lieutenant governor candidate Don Tracy of Springfield are the main contenders among three candidates. While Tracy has said he disagrees with Kinzinger’s actions, he opposes censure. Shaw says he hasn’t taken a stand, though he’s discussed censure with Republicans around the state.
Republicans have long been outnumbered by Democrats in the blue state of Illinois and already are divided over urban versus rural issues. The debate over Trump and censure is further exacerbating that divide.