IL-16: Could Adam Kinzinger Pull a Phil Gramm by Resigning from House and Elected to U.S. Senate Following Year?

Adam Kinzinger
Phil Gramm 1983

In 1983, Phil Gramm not only changed parties, but resigned from his U.S. House seat, ran in the special election and won as Republican and won U.S. Senate race year later

From the desk of John Lopez: After reading more comments in tweets, including from one IL-16 Republican primary challenger to Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R, IL-16) that he needs to resign from the Republican Party, something this morning reminded me how a then 3rd-term congressman did his party switch nearly 40 years ago.

Instead of simply notifying the U.S. House clerk he wanted his political party listing to be changed from Democrat to Republican, similar to how Justin Amash (MI-03) and Jonathan Van Drew (NJ-02) did in the past 3 years, then-Congressman Phil Gramm (D, TX-06), on the 2nd day of the 98th Congress, resigned his congressional seat, and ran for election as a Republican in the special election the following month.

The reason Gramm took such a drastic move was due to sponsoring the Gramm-Latta Budget Act of 1981 as a member of the Majority on the House Budget Committee for the newly-minted President Ronald Reagan. Gramm-Latta was the first significant legislation implementing the conservative decade of the 1980s.

Then House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. of Massachusetts, in response, threw Gramm off the House Budget Committee entering the 98th Congress. Gramm resigned from the House two days into his 3rd elected term.

Texas had just elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction in 1978, William Clements, who was voted out in 1982. Governor Mark White (D) set a special election for February 12, under a blanket primary. Gramm easily won the special election without a runoff being needed, given no candidate, including a couple of future congressmen, could build the name ID in a month Gramm had from 3 successful elections as a Democrat in a blanket primary.

The following year during the 1984 Reagan landslide, 4-term U.S. Senator John Tower (R) retired from the Senate, and Gramm won election to the open seat. Gramm’s TX-06 was won by Republican Joe Barton and has stayed Republican to this day.

During the abbreviated special election campaign and his U.S. Senate campaign, Gramm made it clear to voters he had chosen the voters over Tip O’Neill. That message resonated in a Texas that was beginning to become a Republican stronghold.

Adam Kinzinger

Could Adam Kinzinger take a similar gamble, and leave the Republican Party to become an Independent or simply resign his congressional seat to set up his preferred successor?

Legally, he could. But long-term, if he chose to pursue the U.S. Senate next year, the Independent route could cause him potential problems.

It’s an option since Kinzinger has always said he wants to stay in the House, and with his IL-16 very likely to be eliminated with the congressional remap and a late June primary for the regular election next year…causes one to pause to consider the possibility.

So how would this work?

Under Illinois law, a vacancy in the U.S. House would require Governor J.B. Pritzker to call a special election no later than 120 days of the vacancy. Under Illinois law, Governor Pritzker would have to call a special primary election within those 120 days for the established political parties, the Republicans and Democrats.

So right there, the 1983 Gramm path is disrupted because while Texas mandates a blanket primary and majority (50%+1) winner, Illinois’ winner-take-all special primary places established party candidates into up to 2 elections.

So think the current challengers, including the ones who’ve raised some money like Catalina Lauf, forcing them to run in a primary for the unexpired term, AND THEN being able to be viable to run in regular 2022 election!

Talk about bleeding your potential opponents of money, Kinzinger could do this, especially if he ran as an Independent, having to only be on the ballot once against the primary winners.

Then, Republican and Democrat special primary winners and Independent Adam Kinzinger (and his $3 million campaign bank account as of June 30). Would Kinzinger do a 1983/1984 Gramm, paraphrased/updated:

“I chose the people of IL-16 over Donald Trump/QAnon/conspiracy theories!”

So let’s look at the calendar. Kinzinger could plan his departure in sync with the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on September 30, and a resignation effective at 11:59PM ET that night would mandate a special election by the end of January, with a special primary during the middle of the Holiday season, with the general set possibly on day 120, or Saturday, January 29th, 2022!

Sue Rezin

OR, Kinzinger could force his would-be IL-16 challengers to face his preferred successor, possibly state Senator Sue Rezin (R, Morris) who could run within the boundaries of her home IL-16. She ran in the IL-14 Republican primary in 2020 finishing 2nd, in the only election she ever lost.

Something that hasn’t been widely reported. The Grundy County Republican Party Chairman Aren Hansen was recently elected to succeed the IL-16 state central committeeperson who resigned earlier this year. Could Hansen, with known ties to Rezin (who turns 57 this month), be setting something like this up?

And given a special election, Rezin would not have to resign her state senate seat to pursue Congress.

And a potential rematch with Lauf, who many of Rezin’s supporters blame for losing IL-14 primary last year, could settle that old score between the two women, especially the Rezin backers.

And if Rezin wins IL-16 and it is eliminated at the congressional remap, she would still have nearly a year of the 117th Congress to gain experience for a possible future run, potentially in another House district.

While I’m the first to admit a Kinzinger resignation and subsequent special election to replace him in the 117th Congress likely will not happen, such things are more possible with a primary date of June 28, 2022.


IL-16: Could Adam Kinzinger Pull a Phil Gramm by Resigning from House and Elected to U.S. Senate Following Year? — 13 Comments

  1. I don’t think he needs to change parties.

    The party needs to come to it’s senses and dump Trump.

    This is starting to happen in various ways already.

    By June of 2022 things may look very different.

    Trump may be under indictment in New York and maybe Georgia.

    By 2024 he may be in prison or a nursing home or cemetary. Who knows?

    Kinsinger will be a man without a district so he can do anything he wants.

    There is no requirement that a US Representative live in the district he represents.

    Or maybe Biden will give him a cabinet position along with Liz Cheney.

  2. I don’t think he’s necessarily contemplating a party switch.

    While Anti-Trump does bring a distinction and greater name recognition, it has a short shelf life, as Trump aside, the independent sentiment seems to be leaning Republican thus far ahead of 2022. And a moderate has to get the independents.

    I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do yet, but I’d bet he’s got at least 3 possible game plans going forward.

    As for Trump indictments, etc., don’t think there’s much there. But they’ll continue to beat him over the head, which in the end, a lot of people will tire of.

    And that being so, I can’t imagine Trump having the discipline to mount a campaign with a fresh set of ideas and objectives. No matter how much he’ll try, he won’t be able to resist creating a personal revenge narrative.

    I don’t think that will win for him. Coming from someone who voted for him and would consider him again.


  3. Hi John. 🙂

    When is the new Illinois Congressional Districts map due? 🤔

  4. I would say that Gradel and Marten cost her the primary.

    If those two were out, I think she could have slipped past both Lauf and O.

  5. Kinzinger’s own family disavowed him just like Jeb’s mother (Babs Bush) did to him when he ran for President.

    “we don’t need a Monarchy” I think was her direct quote.

    Zinger gotta go, Trump or no Trump.

  6. Pat C., Rezin beat Lauf, so the only one she needed to slip past in the IL-14 primary last year was Oberweis.


    You’re likely right, but think this through, if Kinzinger left the House early (especially after seeing his district eliminated) on the September 30 timeline, his and wife’s baby due in January.

    Not a bad time to be with wife expecting 1st baby, over the Holidays and letting others slug it out for his vacant seat in special election.

  7. I don’t think he’ll be resigning or running for office as any party other than Republican.

    I don’t think he wants to be seen as a quitter and he wants to do this 1/6 committee.

    He has made clear he identifies as a Republican, not a Democrat, Democrats would not accept him, and getting on the ballot as an independent would be enormously difficult.

    No, if he runs for anything, it will be as a Republican.

    Kinzinger running for Senate is a possibility.

    The most likely thing to happen is his district is eliminated, his hometown ends up in a safe D district, he doesn’t run for ANYTHING, and he writes a book and gets a contract as a regular on some cable news show with a panel.

    Ends up making more money that way.

    Obviously he likes to talk and he likes being the center of media attention.

    That would be perfect for him.

    Doesn’t really make for a good clickbait blog article, but I see that as the most likely scenario.

    Additionally, I think Lauf, Lombardi, and these other people running against Kinzinger are going to end up in D districts, won’t even run for office, and end up looking silly.

    He might even be setting them up for some kind of money trap.

    What happens if they spend a lot of money but then they decide to not run because of the new districts and then the donors demand refunds?

    Could their committees end up in debt?

  8. Correcting,

    Interesting, particularly the take Kinzinger won’t run for anything next year, retire, get a TV contract and be home with wife and new baby.

    There is nothing to mandate a candidate to return contributions if the race changes and district eliminated and/or Kinzinger doesn’t run again.

    If a donor asks for refund, there’s nothing compelling a candidate to return it. I think for any of these candidates, that’s low risk.

    As I said in the Wasserman article, Lauf would likely run in a district bordering McHenry County to west, possibly the New 11th.

    Marter already said openly he’ll run in new IL-14 if it includes LaSalle County.

    We’ll see when new map comes out.

    Being in Texas when the Gramm gamble took place, brought to compare because Gramm sided with newly minted President Reagan, and went from back-benching conservative Democrat to 1st Republican to ever win TX-06 since its creation in 1846, and winning U.S. Senate seat inside 19 months.

    As you correctly pointed out, Kinzinger clear he wants to stay Republican.

  9. Kinzy will be a CNN analyst by this time next year, maybe taking over Cuomo’s spot.

    He will not be elected to the Senate as a Republican.

  10. Russ Stewart’s August 8th column suggests:

    Adam Kizinger running for Congress in the 17th District.

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