The Republican primary between Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller in Illinois’ 15th District is emblematic of the choice GOP primary voters face: Trump-type hardliners who deny the validity of the 2020 election versus conservatives who voted to certify President Joe Biden’s victory and supported a bipartisan investigation into the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The race could also have lingering impacts on who oversees federal elections and the U.S. Capitol Police, a position that holds more weight after the Capitol riot.
Miller has been seen as the slight front-runner in the race. Former President Donald Trump backed Miller and held a rally in central Illinois for her days before Tuesday’s primary. At that rally, Miller said the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade is a “historic victory for White life.” Her campaign has said she misread prepared remarks and meant to say “right to life.”
Over $4.6 million has been spent by outside groups looking to oust Davis, in part due to unhappiness with his vote for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks. That commission would have differed from the select committee currently holding hearings and investigating the attempted insurrection, but the ads are still aimed at tying Davis to Democrats because of that vote.
One ad from Miller’s campaign, calls Davis a “RINO” (Republican-in-name-only) and shows him with Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of the two Republicans serving on the Jan. 6 select committee.
Davis has held office since 2013 and has survived elections in a competitive district by positioning himself closer to the center. But after Illinois’ Democratic Legislature gerrymandered its congressional lines to try and eliminate as many Republican seats as possible, the version of the district Davis once represented was expanded to include more of rural Illinois and is now heavily Republican.
Davis is currently the top Republican on the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over federal election law, including the monitoring of congressional elections, and U.S. Capitol security.
“Devastating attacks on September 11, 2001, June 14, 2017 (the congressional baseball shooting), and January 6, 2021, just to name a few, further highlight the need for thorough oversight of Capitol Security,” reads the committee website.
The committee has weighed in on congressional elections, too, reviewing a Democratic challenge to a Republican win in Iowa’s 2nd District in 2020, where Mariannette Miller-Meeks won by six votes. The challenge was eventually withdrawn by the Democratic candidate.
Under Democratic control, the committee has also been holding hearings this year on ballot access laws in Texas and New Mexico, as well as on redistricting.
Davis has previously said that if Republicans take control of the House and he takes the chairmanship, he will probe the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation.
“As the future Chairman of House Administration, I will also be focused on investigating the security failures leading up to January 6, finding out if Speaker Pelosi had a role in those failures, and holding her sham Select Committee circus accountable,” Davis said in a statement after Trump’s rally in Mendon, Ill., was announced.
Should Davis lose his primary, Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia could take over as ranking member, or if Republicans flip the House as most political pundits and operatives expect, he will take over as chair.
Video released by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 showed Loudermilk leading a group of people on a tour of the Capitol complex on Jan. 5, 2021, the day before the attacks. Several of the tourists recorded and took photos of the Capitol layout, and attended rallies on Jan. 6.
One of the attendees was heard on a video threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. The committee had not yet confirmed if any of those on the tour entered the Capitol itself on Jan. 6.
“As Capitol Police confirmed, nothing about this visit with constituents was suspicious,” Loudermilk said in a statement after the video was released. “This false narrative that the Committee and Democrats continue to push, that Republicans, including myself, led reconnaissance tours is verifiably false.
In another incumbent-versus-incumbent primary earlier this year, Republican Rep. Alex Mooney, of W.Va., accused his opponent Rep. David McKinley with “betraying” West Virginia, by voting in favor of an independent commission to investigate the US Capitol attack. In his campaign ads against McKinley, Mooney characterized the commission as a “Nancy Pelosi anti-Trump witch hunt.” The ads do not specify or clarify the distinction between the proposed independent commission and the separate House Select Jan. 6 committee, which Republicans have largely boycotted.
Mooney secured an endorsement and joint campaign appearance from Trump, and cruised to victory in the May primary against McKinley by nearly 20 points
Aaron Navarro is an associate producer for the political unit at CBS News, focusing on House and gubernatorial campaigns as well as the census and redistricting.
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