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Illinois GOP Primary Pits Generations

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger is half the age of his Illinois primary opponent, Rep. Don Manzullo (above). Still, Manzullo has a slight edge going into Tuesday's Member-vs.-Member showdown.

"What I've seen on TV is nothing but attack commercials," said Bill Sigler, 70, a candidate for Ogle County Board. "There's no reason why you should be attacking each other. Let us stand on our own merits."

"Our county has been divided, our friends are fighting, our churches are fighting," added Tom Smith, another county board candidate. "Washington takes and says the money is there, but they don't protect the grass roots, the people who live here, when they give that money out."

The audience cheered. This Midwestern district dotted by farmland is not accustomed to negative campaigns, and for many of the new residents, this is their introduction to the two Republicans.

"We've got to take the personal out of politics," Kinzinger attempted to console the crowd. "I've seen some campaign ads in this campaign that really hurt."

Meanwhile, Manzullo's lips are pursed and he gulps, trying to hold down his contempt.

Afterward, Manzullo returns the favor by launching into his top Kinzinger criticisms.

Voters don't know this disparaging side of Manzullo. Lynne Kilker, 75, came to the forum convinced about voting for Manzullo, but now she's not sure after watching the two men fight.

"I listened to them both, and as of right now, I'm mad at both of them," she said. "They're playing like a couple of naughty boys in the sandbox."

On the other hand, local voters aren't familiar with Kinzinger's rising-star status on Capitol Hill, or know he was named one of Time magazine's top 40 people under 40 years old in politics. To them, he's just a young Air Force Reserve pilot who's served only 14 months in Congress and, as a result, their longtime Congressman is under siege.

"I support Don, too, because we've all been close to him for so many years," said Fran Strousse, 73, a retired switchboard operator. "I've known him for years and years, and he's very accessible. Another reason is I'm thinking this would probably be his last term."

But first, Manzullo wants at least one more big victory.

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