U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger isn’t ready to announce his plans for his political future just yet—expect word on that in January—but if a run for governor is in the cards, he sees a clear path for himself.
The current crop of Republican gubernatorial candidates is “a little less than stellar” in his view, a perspective he shared in a podcast interview for an upcoming episode of Crain’s “A.D. Q&A” that’s due to post in full on Nov. 30.
“If I ran for governor,” he said, “I think I’m the only candidate that can win, at least that’s out there now.”
Of the declared Republican candidates, Kinzinger—who has not ruled out a bid for governor in 2022—likes 37-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan best, describing him as “dynamic.” Darren Bailey, meanwhile, appears to be basing his campaign about pushing back against the state’s mask mandate, Kinzinger said. “That’s great. Whatever. That’ll get you a win downstate. You’re not going to win the state of Illinois.”
But Kinzinger was clear that his own primary prospects are likely dim. “I recognize that we’re in a moment where there’s some people who would rather torch their chances of winning the Illinois governor’s race than dare vote for somebody that’s a conservative that doesn’t like Donald Trump. It’s a unique moment,” he said.
“It’s a little disappointing when you just look at the fact that in Illinois you have this race to the far-right, and it’s not a far-right state. I don’t know how many times I hear people tell me: If you just activate the base, we can win Illinois. Well, listen: The base is very activated, and we can’t win Illinois unless we win back those suburbs, right? The suburbs that Republicans used to win all the time.”
It’s similarly dispiriting to Kinzinger that the race might likely come down to a battle of the billionaires: Ken Griffin’s candidate of choice vs. Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “It makes me sick that that’s a possibility, that you basically have two rich people funding this. That’s an area we have to aggressively go after, campaign finance reform.”
The complete interview with Kinzinger drops next Tuesday. Until then, check out the latest episode of “A.D. Q&A,” the Tuesday edition of Crain’s daily Juice newsletter on power and politics: An in-depth conversation with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s right-hand man, Samir Mayekar.