GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With Michigan’s Republican primary five days away, one of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump is leading an effort in Michigan encouraging people to vote for “pro-democracy Republicans.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has been in the national spotlight since voting to impeach Trump. He’s part of the Jan. 6 committee.
He’s not running for reelection this November.
Kinzinger had spoken out against Trump before Jan. 6, particularly in regard to foreign policy. In an interview with News 8 on Thursday, Kinzinger said the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the real turning point for him.
“It was a slow burn, kind of a slow build to recognize the real threat,” Kinzinger said. “It went from, ‘We’re in a moment where maybe people are just being crazy,’ to, ‘Maybe we just need to get this out of our system,’ to after the election — and even leading up to the election — the former president undermining people’s faith in democracy and in that vote.”
After Jan. 6, Kinzinger realized it was time “to start something from the outside.” That’s how Kinzinger founded the political action committee, Country First.
“Democracy is actually at threat right now, and that’s got to take priority,” Kinzinger said. “We don’t want to look back and have our kids someday say, ‘Where were you in the fight to save democracy?’”
Michigan has an open primary system, meaning registered Democrats can vote in a Republican primary and vice versa.
“We want Michigan to stand as a bulwark against the forces against democracy,” Kinzinger said. “That’s the opportunity for Michigan to be able to do that in five days.”
“If you’re a Democrat in a Republican district, your chance really to have an impact is going to be in that primary,” Kinzinger added.
All month, the Country First team has knocked on doors in Grand Rapids and across Michigan. Kinzinger said they’ve encouraged voters, especially Democrats and independents, to cast their ballots for “pro-democracy Republicans” on Aug. 2.
“Our focus is the rifle shot to make that small difference that could turn this thing on the dime, versus just blasting millions and millions of dollars on the airway,” Kinzinger said.
Andrew Regalado is the group’s national grassroots director. Regalado and volunteers have been in Grand Rapids multiple times a week calling voters and knocking on doors.
“I definitely think we’re changing some minds,” Regalado said. “When we talk to voters saying, ‘This is an opportunity to move past that, put a silence to lies, conspiracies, dangerous rhetoric,’ they’re very receptive.”
Regalado said “people are realizing we’re not just another candidate pushing their platform.”
“It’s just saying, ‘Here’s a solution about how we can move forward together stronger and better for the country,’” Regalado said.
They’re focusing on nine districts in Michigan’s down-ballot races, like State House and Senate, which often get less attention but play critical roles in the electoral process.
“The anti-democracy forces … they’re focusing on down-ballot races,” Kinzinger said. “They recognize it doesn’t get a lot of attention. Either it’s a county clerk, an election judge … a state (representative) or a state senator that can decertify elections or not certify a result if Michigan doesn’t go the way they want.”
Country First has done this around the country. Kinzinger said their efforts helped unseat the pro-Trump U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.
“With Madison Cawthorn, the number of Democrats that voted versus the amount he lost by, we made the difference,” Kinzinger said.
According to Kinzinger, “5,700 Democrats pulled a Republican ballot. He lost by 2,700.”
Kinzinger also said they helped Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger avoid a runoff and win his primary election in May. Raffensperger was targeted by the former president for certifying the 2020 election results in Georgia.
Kinzinger also blasted Democrats for boosting far-right Republican candidates in their primaries in the hopes they would be easier for Democrats to beat in the general election. Kinzinger called it “really sick.”
“It’s playing with fire,” he elaborated. “And I can guarantee you after November, we will find at least a few of these races where the wrong person ended up winning ultimately.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending nearly $500,000 airing ads elevating the Donald Trump-endorsed John Gibbs over incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids.
“I have a hard time with a straight face hearing my Democratic friends say, ‘Where have all the good Republicans gone,’ or saying, ‘We’re here to defend democracy,’ and then pulling this kind of thing off,” Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger praised Meijer, saying he hopes he wins his primary and general election.
“(Meijer) is seriously among the best representatives I know in the House,” Kinzinger said.
Meanwhile, with the clock ticking until Election Day, Country First is continuing its efforts until the last minute.
“If you’re a Michigander that is against this threat to Democracy, is against constantly talking about lies about the 2020 election, show up next Tuesday and pull a Republican ballot and vote for the common-sense candidate,” Regalado said.