Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has defeated fellow Republican Rep. Don Manzullo in the state's 16th District GOP congressional primary.
The AP called the race for Kinzinger just after 11 p.m. Eastern time. With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Kinzinger led Manzullo 56 percent to 44 percent.
The race between Kinzinger and Manzullo, forced because Illinois lost a congressional seat and state Democrats controlled the redistricting process, followed a common tea party-against-establishment trend in recent GOP primaries. But the script flipped here, with 10-term veteran Manzullo garnering the bulk of the tea party and movement conservative support while Kinzinger, a freshman, lined up more establishment backing, including an endorsement from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week.
Kinzinger's victory not only ends Manzullo's congressional career but also represents a victory for Cantor, who came under harsh criticism with the rest of House GOP leadership this week for taking a public stand in Kinzinger's favor. After Cantor endorsed Kinzinger, the Cantor-affiliated YG Action Fund super PAC went up with $50,000 in pro-Kinzinger radio ads in the 16th District. Since then, Manzullo and other House Republicans have exploded with fury toward Cantor, while Speaker John Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have sought to distance themselves from Cantor's choice to pick sides. (McCarthy's leadership PAC also donated to Kinzinger after the merged seat matchup became likely, though, and Boehner's donated to Kinzinger last year before evening up to Manzullo just last week.)
Kinzinger, a 34-year-old Air Force veteran, swept into Congress with the conservative wave of 2010 but never fully embraced the tea party. While Manzullo mustered tea party support against him, Kinzinger countered with his own GOP bona fides and insisted that his fresh face and energy would better serve the district. Kinzinger is all but assured of a return to Congress; no Democrats filed to run in the 16th District.
Despite Kinzinger's victory, Cantor's decision to back him upset some GOP House members, and it could ruffle more feathers if Kinzinger's success spurs Cantor and the rest of the GOP leadership to continue taking sides in the remaining GOP merged seat primaries this cycle.
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