“I cannot focus on both a reelection to Congress and a broader fight nationwide,” Kinzinger said in a video retirement message. “I want to make it clear. This isn’t the end of my political future, but the beginning.”
What future office Kinzinger may seek — the 2024 Republican nomination perhaps? — remains to be seen, but what is starkly clear is that his outspoken opposition to Donald Trump, which culminated in Kinzinger being one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach the former president for his role in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, had made it impossible for him to win another term in Congress.
That is a similar fate to the one faced by Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who retired last month in the face of a serious primary challenge from a former Trump administration aide.
“1 down, 9 to go!” Trump said in a statement released after Gonzalez’s announcement.
Trump is also aggressively targeting several other members of the group of 10 who voted to impeach him.
* He has endorsed Harriet Hageman’s challenge to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — and called the incumbent a “warmonger” and a “bitter, horrible human being.”
* He sent a letter to local officials in the district of New York Rep. John Katko urging them to find a challenger to the incumbent, who Trump described as “bad news.”
* He endorsed Joe Kent’s primary challenge to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington state.
* He endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra, who is running in a primary against Rep. Fred Upton in 2022. “Upton has not done the job that our country needs, for years has talked about leaving office and not running again, and he voted for impeachment of the president of the United States on rigged up charges,” Trump said of the incumbent.
* Washington state Rep. Dan Newhouse has drawn several primary challengers following his impeachment vote, but Trump himself has not waded in to endorse any of them yet.
* Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer has a handful of primary opponents including the so-called “MAGA Bride” Audra Johnson, who earned the moniker by wearing a “Make America Great Again” themed dress at her wedding in the summer of 2021. (Trump has yet to endorse a candidate in the race.)
* South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice has at least eight primary challengers, many of whom are running expressly on his impeachment vote. “I want to do the one thing that Tom Rice didn’t do: I want to listen to the people and see what the people in my district want me to do,” Horry County Board of Education Chairman Ken Richardson said in announcing his candidacy.
* California Rep. David Valadao faces former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, who accused the incumbent of “disloyalty’ for his vote to impeach the president.
For Kinzinger, winning renomination was always going to be a very difficult task. His prospects turned even darker when Illinois Democrats released a new map of the state’s districts that put Kinzinger and Rep. Darin LaHood (R) in the same seat. Beating a Republican incumbent in a party still entirely dominated by Trump was something close to an impossibility for Kinzinger.
The Illinois Republican’s bow to political reality affirms — yet again — that crossing Trump in any way, shape or form amounts to something close to a political death sentence in the party these days.