WASHINGTON — When Catalina Lauf launched her 2020 GOP campaign for Congress in a district outside of Chicago, it got little notice. Her Wednesday video announcing her 2022 primary challenge to Rep. Adam Kinzinger quickly skyrocketed to more than 523,900 views.
A primary contest between Kinzinger and Lauf, if indeed it pans out, will be part of the GOP civil war being waged across the nation between Trump Republicans and Republicans who do not embrace the ex-president.
“Republicans’ like Liz Cheney and my opponent Adam Kinzinger should be playing no role in the future of the party or our country!” Lauf said in a Wednesday tweet.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Kinzinger were two of the 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach Trump a second time.
Among those who retweeted her announcement video, where Lauf tore into Kinzinger for his vote to impeach Trump, was Corey Lewandowski, who managed part of Trump’s 2016 White House bid. “Strong candidate in @CatalinaLauf,” he wrote.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauf said, “This will be the number one, number two most watched race this cycle. This is going to be big, because people are very engaged and people are very upset at everything that has been happening over the last six months.”
With 20.06% of the vote, Lauf, 27, came in third in a field of seven in the March 2020 GOP primary in the 14th District won by now former state Sen. Jim Oberweis. Oberweis went on to be defeated by Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.
Even with the loss, Lauf came out of the primary with a promising political future. She was featured in a video on the opening night of the Republican National Convention last August.
Lauf lives in Woodstock, in the 14th District. Kinzinger’s 16th District home is in Channahon, about a dozen miles southwest of Joliet. Those district lines will be changing.
Kinzinger, who turns 43 on Saturday and is an Air National Guard pilot, has a soaring national profile.
Last month he launched a drive to reclaim the Republican Party from conspiracy theorists and the forces leading to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and to provide a counter to Trump, who is retaining his grip on the GOP.
In addition to his impeachment vote, he was also one of 11 Republicans to vote with Democrats to strip freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from committees for her threats to execute Democrats; her embrace of QAnon conspiracy theories and other fringe views.
Lauf attended a public elementary school and was home-schooled for high school. After attending McHenry County College, she transferred to Miami University of Ohio to earn her undergraduate degree. She worked in ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2018 reelection campaign.
With Trump’s election, Lauf moved to Washington to work in the Commerce Department in various positions as a special adviser. At present she is employed in a family children’s health business.
REMAP PLAYS A ROLE
Kinzinger spokesperson Maura Gillespie told the Sun-Times in an email, “It’s a bit early to comment when we don’t even know what the districts will look like. But I will say that Congressman Kinzinger has a proven record of leadership and integrity, serving the interests of his constituents and his country—not the sole interests of one man.”
Kinzinger, first elected to Congress in 2010, represents the sprawling 16th Congressional District, sweeping in 14 counties west, north and south of Chicago. Winning the primary on that GOP turf is tantamount to clinching the general election.
That district will likely not exist in 2022 following the remap based on the 2020 Census.
Illinois is expected to lose one, possibly two seats in Congress due to population declines. At present, Republicans hold five of the current 18 congressional districts in Illinois.
Depending how mapmaking goes, Illinois Democrats could force Republicans to absorb the lost seat, pitting them against each other. Congressional contenders do not have to live in the districts they want to represent.
Kinzinger is the most prominent Republican in Illinois. He has not announced his 2022 plans as he puts a focus on building his new movement.
Said Lauf, “He’s in Congress right now and I filed to primary Adam Kinzinger, and that’s where we are.”