LaHood blasts Illinois redistricting process, blames Biden for labor shortage and supply chain crisis
U.S. Rep Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, says he’s eager to serve new constituents in Illinois’ redrawn 16th Congressional District, but labeled the process that defined the new boundaries as “not good for democracy.”
“These districts are blatantly gerrymandered,” LaHood said Monday, four days after officially announcing his 2022 re-election bid. “I think there's a good chance they could get overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and I hope they do.”
Similar to LaHood’s current 18th District territory, the 16th now will include portions of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, and McLean counties — areas he has considered his home base during his five years in Washington.
But while the Democrat-drawn map also extends the district north to the Wisconsin border, it does not include the urban centers of Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and Rockford.
“If you look at my district, I don't think I have a city over 20,000 people. They packed as many rural Republican voters into my district,” said LaHood. “It's really politicians picking their voters instead of voters picking their politicians and that's wrong for our system. I think it's unhealthy.”
Saying he has been an advocate for a fair mapping initiative, LaHood said Gov. JB Pritzker broke a campaign pledge by allowing partisan politics to dictate the redistricting process.
“I wish this wasn't the case. I wish we had lines with our own county lines and city lines. Look at Bloomington-Normal, it's a good example. You have the entire county (McLean) split along Democrat and Republican lines. Frankly, I don't think that's good for the voters or the elected officials that actually represent the area.”
The new district would've grouped LaHood with GOP colleague Adam Kinzinger, a frequent critic of former President Donald Trump. But Kinzinger instead decided not to retire and not run again, although LaHood said that didn’t factor into his plans.
“I had no control over what Congressman Kinzinger was going to do,” he said. "Obviously, he made the decision that was best for him and his family, and I'm happy for him. I'm ready to move forward with my new district.”
Kinzinger was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in the wake of the January insurrection on Capitol Hill. During a national media interview Sunday, Kinzinger said he still intends to fight what he sees as a cancer of conspiracy and dishonesty in the Republican Party.
“Well, those are his views,” said LaHood. “I'm a strong conservative Republican. I’m proud of my track record advocating for people throughout my district. I think the Republican Party has a bright future, in terms of what we stand for.”
LaHood went on to place blame on the Biden Administration and Democratic congressional leadership for a litany of issues, from rising inflation and a bottlenecked supply chain to migration along the southern border and the ramifications of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
“I think it shows that our Republican Party and what we stand for, is really what we need in this country. And so I feel very good about our Republican Party in the future.”
LaHood said he believes Biden is directly at fault for not doing more to address the workforce shortage and rising consumer prices.
“He is the governing President right now; he is responsible for the direction of the economy. I think he’s made some really bad decisions,” said LaHood. “We have close to 11 million unfilled jobs in this country right now, because we've essentially disincentivized work. You see that in the supply chain issue, you see that in the labor shortage, and frankly, Biden hasn't done anything about it. The response has been: ‘let's spend more money.’”
Kinzinger and Wyoming’s Liz Cheney are the only Republicans on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. LaHood opposed the creation of the committee, and he did not vote to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the committee.
“I voted against the commission because I think the criminal justice system is working the way that it should,” said LaHood. “If for some reason it's not, and there are people that are not being appropriately prosecuted or held accountable, I'm happy to review that in the future. But I made a determination that, in fact, is not happening right now.”
LaHood said he supports the proposed $1.2 trillion “hard” infrastructure package to improve roads and bridges, and airports and rail systems, and rural broadband.
“Those are good things for my district, they're good things for Illinois, and it's real infrastructure,” he said. “I am supportive of hard infrastructure, but not when it's tied to a $3.5 trillion progressive socialist wish list.”
LaHood said the new 16th District reflects many of the same areas he’s represented previously, particularly built around agriculture. He said advocating for Illinois farmers will remain among his top priorities, along with getting past the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The number one goal is getting back to the economy we had pre-COVID. That was the best economy of my lifetime,” said LaHood, pointing to the national unemployment rate dipping to 3.5% in January of 2020 before spiking after the onset of the pandemic.
“If I'm fortunate to get re-elected, I'm going to continue to focus on how we help working families, how we help small businesses, how we help our folks in rural America to benefit from this economy.”