How it happened: Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s path to the Jan. 6 committee

Rep. Adam Kinzinger started his congressional career in 2011 pretty much as a party line GOP conservative from a district outside of Chicago rarely in the big city news.

Kinzinger, 44, will end it in January — he’s not running again — known nationally as a crusader against extremism. He is one of only two Republicans — along with Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — willing to serve on the Democratic-led committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump’s role in trying to overturn the election and prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

That Kinzinger landed on the panel is part of the story of his evolution — not only in his battles against Trump’s election denialism and attacks on our democratic institutions — but in his voting record, emerging in his last year in office as, according to a Chicago Sun-Times roll call analysis, the rare Republican with a stream of cross aisle votes.

Kinzinger represents the 16th District just south of Chicago and lives in Channahon.

The panel kicks off its first prime time hearing on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT, with the next sessions Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

KINZINGER TAKES ON CONSPIRACY THEORIES

By May 2020, Kinzinger was troubled over how conspiracy theories had taken hold in his party. Unlike most other Republicans, Kinzinger, a military pilot, did not fear then-President Trump, so he did something about it — posting a video titled “Unplug the Rage Machine,” where he warned people of baseless claims peddled by conspiracy theorists.

In his QAnon video, Kinzinger said, “If you know someone who buys into these theories, don’t hate them. Show them that humanity can actually live together with different opinions. If you believe these theories, I’d actually encourage you to do your own research and do it with an open mind.”

Kinzinger implored others to speak out. “I’d ask every leader to put aside the avoidance of short term pain to save our country in the long term.”

That didn’t happen. But Jan. 6 did.

After the attack, Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote for a measure calling on then-Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to oust Trump.

Kinzinger was one of 10 Republicans voting to impeach Trump over the attack.

At the end of January 2021, Kinzinger launched “Country First,” now his main political action committee, dedicated to combatting “the poisonous extremism that has overtaken our politics.”

In this 2022 cycle, Kinzinger’s PAC’s “Primary 1st” program is trying to defeat in Republican primaries “the most toxic partisans who tried to overturn the election, overthrow the government, and defend a deadly insurrection.”

Kinzinger and Cheney were the only Republicans who would accept House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appointment to the panel.

KINZINGER BACKS GUN MEASURES AND MORE

Kinzinger decided not to run again after Springfield Democrats threw him in a district with another Republican incumbent. In January, Kinzinger and wife Sofia became first-time parents, with the birth of their son, Christian.

In the past 12 months, Kinzinger has been one of the few Republicans — and sometimes the only one — to cast a cross-aisle vote, according to a Sun-Times analysis of votes on issues not related to the Jan. 6 probe.

Here are some highlights:

On Wednesday, in response to mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, House Democrats passed the Protecting Our Kids Act, mustering support from only between 3 to 13 Republicans on 7 roll calls related to the legislation, including raising the semi-automatic weapon purchase age to 21.

Kinzinger was a yes on all of them.

In May, Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote for the Domestic Terrorism Act, a measure passed in the wake of the Buffalo racist massacre.

Twelve Republicans, including Kinzinger, voted for the Infant Formula Supplemental funding measure.

Six Republicans, including Kinzinger, supported a bill providing relief to restaurants and other small businesses.

Fourteen Republicans, including Kinzinger, voted for the CROWN Act, a measure banning race-based hair discrimination.

Thirteen Republicans, including Kinzinger, voted for the infrastructure bill.

Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote to increase the debt limit.

I asked Kinzinger’s spokesperson, Maura Gillespie about his votes.

“I think a lot of what you’re seeing is the frustration of the all-or-nothing politics that’s preventing Congress from taking action on important things.

“There are some things that the Congressman feels are worth compromising on because it serves the best interest of his constituents and the nation at large.”

Said Gillespie, Kinzinger’s distinctive voting pattern “is one of leadership; one that puts the interest of the country first. He understands the backlash he’s received from his party, but as he has said before, he can go home and night and look at his son and know that he’s trying to do what is right for the future of this country.”

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By Lynn Sweet

The original article can be found on The Chicago Sun-Times' website here.