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Rep. Peter Roskam’s decision to stay out of the messy Illinois primary that pitted a freshman incumbent against a veteran lawmaker was a prescient strategy for a rising leader, Members and political observers said of the GOP’s Chief Deputy Whip.
While some Illinois junkies complain of Roskam’s cautious style when it comes to state politics, others noted that the three-term Republican is wisely picking his spots and building goodwill in a diverse Conference that widely views his future as bright.
“I think he’s trying to build, especially from a Whip position, all the way through, a way of keeping people united,” Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said of his chief deputy. “He’s one who unites; he doesn’t divide in the process.”
Another Republican lawmaker was more direct, noting that Roskam’s decision to stay out of the primary between Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger, the latter of whom won the messy March contest, “will pay him dividends down the road” as he tries to climb up the leadership ranks. Whereas Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) caught heat for endorsing and financially supporting Kinzinger, Roskam emerged from the contest in his own home state unscathed.
Roskam said the decision to stay out of the primary was driven by his relationship with both Members and that he did not feel any pressure to jump in once Cantor, a member of elected leadership, made his endorsement announcement.
“My role as Chief Deputy Whip is to spend a lot of time listening to members and working with Kevin and trying to build consensus internally,” he said. “So, consistent with that approach, I decided to wave off that whole situation.”
Rep. John Shimkus, a veteran Republican in the Illinois delegation, agreed that Roskam’s decision to stay out, and Rep. Aaron Schock’s decision to aggressively pull for Kinzinger, is illustrative of the lawmakers’ styles and posture. Both lawmakers served in the state Legislature, and both are on the exclusive Ways and Means Committee, but that’s where their similarities end. Roskam holds a prestigious leadership position and largely wields his influence behind the scenes. Schock is a frequent cable news guest who is building up his power network back in the state.