(WASHINGTON) — Thirty-five House Republicans voted in May 2021 in favor of legislation that would have created an independent commission to investigate the insurgency on the U.S. Capitol.
While that bill never moved forward, due to Republicans’ filibuster in the Senate, the vote’s shadow loomed over various primary races as the conservative base reconsiders — and in some cases backfires — GOP lawmakers who toed the line in a party largely defined by loyalty to former President Donald Trump.
The Jan. 6 committee vote isn’t the only factor influencing each of the races, but it’s an example of how Republicans who break with Trump — especially on Jan. 6 — are then defined, in part, by this choice.
A total of 10 of the 35 will not return to the House of Representatives for the next term due to retirements, resignations or primary defeats. It remains to be seen how many of the remaining 25 will suffer the same fate.
Illinois’ six-term Rep. Adam Kinzinger chose not to run at all. Kinzinger — one of his party’s most prominent anti-Trump members alongside colleague Liz Cheney and one of 10 Republicans to also vote for Trump’s second impeachment following the Capitol riots — said announced in October that he was backing down after being dragged into a congressional district that would pit him against another incumbent.
Ohio Representative Anthony Gonzalez, another supporter of the bipartisan commission, also cited “toxic” intra-party fighting as part of his reasoning for stepping back.
“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, in particular many toxic dynamics within our own party, is an important factor. in my decision,” Gonzalez said in a statement in September.
Gonzalez’s seat could then be filled by MAGA-world candidate Max Miller, a Trump White House and campaign aide who won the Republican primary for Gonzalez’s new district.
A similar situation unfolded in Michigan, where Rep. Fred Upton announced he would not seek a 19th term — while guaranteeing that Trump-backed incumbent Rep. Bill Huizenga will advance to the August primaries at that time. newly redesigned seat.
New York Rep. John Katko, who played a key role in brokering the ultimately doomed bipartisan commission, announced in January that he was retiring to spend more time with his family. Trump hailed Katko’s retirement in a statement, saying, “Good news, another bites the dust.”
Other commission supporters who decided to seek re-election could not be heard. In West Virginia, Rep. David McKinley was defeated by Trump-endorsed Rep. Alex Mooney in a member-to-member primary. Rep. Michael Guest, in Mississippi’s 3rd District, was stuck in a runoff with former Navy pilot Michael Cassidy, who leaned into the party’s more fringe sensibilities: In a campaign ad, Cassidy promised that, if elected, he would try to audit the 2020 presidential election and introduce articles of impeachment of President Joe Biden.
And David Valadao, the only California Republican to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, is in tight competition to secure his job. While his race is still too close to announce after voting ended on Tuesday, Valadao is leading among Republican candidates. But some of his support was siphoned off by Chris Mathys, who sued California to get himself listed as “conservative Trump” on the ballot.
Still, other Republicans who voted for the Jan. 6 commission were able to repel the attacks, including Iowa. Representative Miller-Meeks, who ran unopposed, and Representatives Chris Smith of New Jersey, Dusty Johnson of South Dakota and Steam Womack of Arkansas, who decidedly won their primaries.
Many of the remaining group are competing in closely watched races throughout the summer, such as South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, who faces a tough contest next week.
At a March rally in support of the main challenger, Rep. Russell Fry, Trump said Rice “broke our trust” with his vote on Trump’s second impeachment and was a “total jerk.”
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Rice said backing Trump’s impeachment was “the conservative vote” and he had no regrets, despite the political backlash.
“It was clear to me what I had to do. I was livid. I am livid today about this. I took an oath to protect the Constitution,” Rice said. “I did it then, and I will do it again tomorrow.”
And Rice bristled at Trump’s attempts to portray him as a mindless traitor.
“If I’m a ‘disaster’ and a ‘total jerk’ and voted with him 169 or so many times, what does that make him, doesn’t it?” said Rice. “I take his example.”
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