WASHINGTON — Jumping into Illinois politics, former President Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Mary Miller on Saturday, setting up a bruising 2022 GOP primary with Rep. Rodney Davis, who was a co-chair of Trump’s re-election campaign in the state.
The difference between Miller and Davis — who told me a few weeks ago on the Sun-Times “At the Table” show he would welcome Trump’s backing — is that Miller, a freshman, is from the far-right MAGA wing of the Republican party which includes Miller’s friend, Trump acolyte, election denier and conspiracy theory peddler Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
Both Davis and Miller are conservatives. Miller, from Oakland, is the highest ranking elected official in Illinois promoting Trumpism.
Davis, seeking a sixth term, is climbing the rungs of GOP House leadership and flirted with a run for governor. Davis is known for working with members of both parties.
Trump’s move comes as he is looking to spark intra-party primaries in order to increase the numbers of Trump-loyal MAGA Republicans in the House in advance of his anticipated 2024 White House comeback bid.
Within the same hour on Saturday afternoon, Trump announced his Miller endorsement and Miller announced she would be running from the new 15th congressional district with Trump’s backing.
Trump said Miller “is doing a fantastic job representing the people of Illinois! Strong on Election Security, the Second Amendment, and our Military and Vets, Mary is a champion of our America First agenda. She fights hard against Joe Biden’s open borders, runaway inflation, and the radical indoctrination of our children. Mary has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Miller said in a statement, “I’m proud to be the only member of Congress from Illinois who is fighting to impeach Joe Biden and the lawless Biden Cabinet for leaving our border exposed to an invasion of illegal immigration.”
Miller and her husband, state Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland, were at the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection. Miller spoke at the rally — that’s when she said: “Hitler was right on one thing,” though she later apologized.
In a statement, Davis campaign spokesperson Aaron DeGroot said all Miller “has to show for her time in Congress is quoting Hitler and voting with Democrats like AOC and the far left squad to defund our military and block a pay raise for our troops. That’s shameful. It’s clear that Mary Miller is all talk, no action.”
Both Miller and the progressive leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, voted against the new defense bill funding the military.
DeGroot cited Trump in calling Davis “a conservative who gets things done. He’s already been hard at work highlighting his conservative accomplishments and work with President Trump during his time in office. That’s why he’s earned support from countless grassroots Republican leaders in the district. Our campaign looks forward to educating voters on how Rodney is an effective conservative member of Congress and Mary is not.”
Miller, in her release, also noted her efforts to throw out of the House Republican conference Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
The two accepted appointments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the Jan. 6 committee probing the attack on the Capitol from Trump supporters seeking to prevent Congress from declaring Joe Biden the election winner.
Illinois lost a congressional seat in the reapportionment following the 2020 Census. In their remap, state Democrats, who controlled the process, threw GOP incumbents Miller, Davis of Taylorville and Rep. Mike Bost from Murphysboro into two districts in central and southern Illinois.
Davis said he would run from the new 15th at the end of November, rolling out endorsements of 32 of the 35 GOP party chairmen in the district.
Bost, also a 2020 Illinois Trump co-chair, is running from the new 12th.
State Democratic mapmakers created a GOP district custom fitted for Davis — and one with no other incumbent — as an incentive to keep him out of the 2022 governor’s race, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking another term.
Miller does not live in the new 15th district. Candidates don’t have to live in the district they want to represent. Miller was raised in Naperville, the Chicago suburb, graduating from Naperville Central High School in 1977.
DeGroot said Miller “is only an outsider in the sense that she doesn’t live in the 15th District. She’s a carpetbagger and Chicagoland native.”
With Trump intent on revenge, Kinzinger, from Channahon in northern Illinois, decided not to run again.
Davis is not advocating for Kinzinger and Cheney to be thrown out of the GOP House conference.
Unlike Kinzinger and Cheney, Davis did not vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Miller’s decision to challenge Davis is not a surprise. Last month I reported that Miller campaign senior adviser Isaiah Wartman — Greene’s political adviser and 2020 campaign manager — was focused on Davis. Wartman criticized Davis for not wanting to kick Kinzinger and Cheney out of the House GOP conference over their Jan. 6 panel membership.
As of Sept. 30, Davis has $1,051,173 cash-on-hand compared to $426,769 for Miller.
Petition passing for the June 28 primary in Illinois starts Jan. 13.