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Trump-backed Miller beats Davis in Illinois primary

Davis voted to certify electoral votes, while Miller did not

Illinois Rep. Mary Miller had the support of former President Donald Trump and won her primary Tuesday against a fellow Republican incumbent, Rodney Davis.
Illinois Rep. Mary Miller had the support of former President Donald Trump and won her primary Tuesday against a fellow Republican incumbent, Rodney Davis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Conservative firebrand freshman Rep. Mary Miller, who began her House career apologizing for comments about Adolf Hitler, beat five-term Rep. Rodney Davis on Tuesday in the GOP primary in Illinois’ 15th District. 

Davis, a swing-district survivor who fended off serious general election challenges in 2018 and 2020, could not overcome former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Miller and millions of dollars in opposition ads from such groups as the Club for Growth in the newly drawn, solidly Republican district. 

Miller had 58 percent of the vote to Davis’ 42 percent when The Associated Press called the race at 9:48 p.m. Central time. She will face Paul Lange in the general election. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the district Solid Republican for November.

Despite Trump’s endorsement against him, Davis highlighted his support for the  former president’s agenda and said that if he’s elected and Republicans take control of the House, he would seek to investigate the work of the select committee holding hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. 

Trump campaigned for Miller over the weekend with a rally in Mendon, Ill., and she quickly cut an ad featuring the former president and calling Davis a “RINO,” or Republican in name only. Miller’s ad did not include her referring, as she did at the rally with Trump, to the recent Supreme Court abortion ruling as a win for “white life.” Her campaign, which did not respond to an interview request, said she had misspoken. 

Outside groups invested almost $12 million in the race, eclipsing what both candidates had hauled in this cycle: $3.5 million for Davis and $1.5 million for Miller. 

Illinois’ new congressional boundaries, redrawn as part of the nationwide redistricting and reapportionment process after the 2020 census, resulted in the loss of a House seat and the two incumbents running against each other. 

In the earliest days of this Congress, on Jan. 6, 2021, Miller voted against certifying election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania for Joe Biden. Davis, a onetime congressional staffer who is the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, voted the opposite way, saying in a recent interview that he “did what I thought was my constitutional duty under the 12th Amendment.”

Although Miller and Davis agree on some of the hot-button issues, such as opposition to abortion rights, on votes that broke along party lines, Miller supported the GOP position 98.3 percent of the time while Davis backed his party 87.5 percent. During the Biden administration, Davis has voted in favor of the Democratic administration’s public position 24.6 percent of the time to Miller’s 6.6 percent. His more moderate voting record may speak to his past running in a swing district.

On Capitol Hill, Davis is known for his folksy style, including self-deprecating quips and references to his deep appreciation for the rock band Nickelback. 

He’s been a staunch opponent of Democratic efforts to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance and elections laws. 

He first won election in 2012, after serving as an aide to Republican John Shimkus beginning in the 1990s, and fondly remembers the Bill Clinton-era budget deals that emerged from a divided government, as well as the “regular order” of legislative business that produced them. Miller replaced Shimkus when he retired.

“I see myself as somebody who is here to help educate many of my colleagues on the importance of what regular order is,” Davis said when he first joined the House in 2013. “It’s not just lip service. It’s the ability to actually act and it’s the ability to legislate, which is what we are here to do.”

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