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On Syria, Illinois US Rep Adam Kinzinger Draws Primary Foe

by Carl Wicklander, published


With the US Congress returning to debate and vote on authorization to intervene in the Syrian civil war, at least one representative has drawn a primary challenge over his stance.

As one of the Republican congressmen on record supporting President Barack Obama's proposed intervention in Syria, Illinois US Representative Adam Kinzinger has acquired a primary opponent because of his support for military action: Rockford tea party activist David Hale.

Kinzinger first won election in 2010 and defeated incumbent and fellow Republican US Rep. Don Manzullo in 2012 after redistricting. One of the younger members of the House, Kinzinger is 35 years old and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is actually Hale's second attempt to challenge Kinzinger in this election cycle. Just two weeks ago, Hale withdrew his bid to challenge Kinzinger, but over the weekend announced he changed his mind and decided to challenge the two-term incumbent.

Regarding his abrupt change of mind, Hale said, "I felt not only compelled by the specter of war with Syria and Kinzinger's support of that war, but I believed that I would have let down some of my supporters who believed in me. . . . I'm in it now to the end."

On his Facebook page, Hale wrote on Sunday, "I will not vote for a war with anyone except if there is absolute clear reason why we would be affected."

Kinzinger has already gone on the offensive against his fellow Republicans who are opposing the proposed military intervention.

On Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Kinzinger criticized Texas US Senator Ted Cruz's assertion that the US would effectively become al Qaeda's air force. The charge refers to the high reported number of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated fighters within the Syrian opposition.

Kinzinger responded by saying, "it was a cheap line . . . to garner headlines and not a serious discussion about what is going on in Syria."

Responding to a constituent, Kinzinger wrote in a letter reproduced on the Illinois Review website that if the US does not respond to President Bashar al-Assad's reported use of chemical weapons, the US "will send a message to the likes of Iran and other despots that weapons of mass destruction may be used without severe retribution."

He went on to say, "Failure to act makes al Qaeda stronger in Syria and throughout the world, not weaker" and "our nation's national security will be at risk if we let the use of chemical weapons go unpunished."

A chart at the Washington Post shows where members of Congress stand on attacking Syria. Kinzinger is one of 25 confirmed supporters as of September 8.

Kinzinger's district, the sixteenth, stretches north from Rockford down to the central part of the state. In 2012, Kinzinger won election in his new district with over 60 percent of the vote. Playing into Hale's favor is that some Illinois polls have shown as much as 80 percent opposing US strikes in Syria.

David Hale's primary challenge will undoubtedly face troubles against an incumbent overwhelmingly re-elected. However, if he stays in the race, the residents of the 16th district will have at least one other choice on the primary ballot if Kinzinger's support for an unpopular war remains an issue in 2014.

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