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Trump-Pence divide draws distinctions in GOP primary

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis says, "Mike Pence is a good man," certifying 2020 election results was "my duty," recants his prior support for a Liz Cheney presidential run

COLLINSVILLE, Illinois — The fight for control of Illinois' newly drawn, deep-red 15th Congressional District promises to gauge Republican primary voter sentiments about January 6 and former President Donald Trump's false claims about a stolen 2020 election.

The primary matchup between five-term incumbent Congressman Rodney Davis and freshman Congresswoman Mary Miller features contrasting postures from two conservative politicians navigating slightly different lanes in the party's post-Jan. 6 reality. 

Miller voted against certifying President Joe Biden's electoral victory in January of 2020. Next Saturday, Trump plans to return the favor and rally support for Miller at the Adams County Fairgrounds near the state's western border with Iowa.

Davis, who at times has backed away from Trump during his most controversial moments, said he "won't run away" from his close working relationship with the former president, but also says he was fulfilling his Constitutional duties when he voted to certify the 2020 election results. 

"We feel really good about the race right now," Davis said, conveying confidence during a campaign stop with the firefighters union in Collinsville.

He took questions from the press for half an hour, and at one point said he could go half an hour longer to defend his colleague Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-TX) from accusations that he led Capitol rioters on a "reconnaissance tour" through the halls and security checkpoints on the Capitol grounds the day before January 6th.

"That accusation needed to be proven false," Davis said, explaining why he wrote a letter to U.S. Capitol Police. "I sent my team over to view Capitol Police footage and we showed no member of the Republican conference took anyone on a so-called 'reconnaissance tour' into the Capitol." 

Davis contends Loudermilk's group only toured an office building, and never entered the U.S. Capitol on January 5 or on the 6th.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) initially tapped Davis to sit on the select committee to investigate the events of January 6, but Davis and McCarthy's other appointees bowed out after Speaker Nancy Pelosi objected to the appointments of members who voted against certifying the election results.

Credit: AP
From left, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., pause during a news conference after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republicans chosen by McCarthy to be on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. McCarthy is denouncing the decision as "an egregious abuse of power," by Pelosi. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On social media, Miller has conflated Davis' support for the panel that never formed with the current select committee that Davis has protested. 

Miller claims Davis "stabbed President Trump and his voters in the back" because he initially voted to investigate the riot at the Capitol, though he later voted against the formation of the current panel.

Miller skipping votes to hit campaign trail 'dereliction of duty,' Davis says

Davis accused Miller of a "dereliction of duty" for skipping votes in Congress this week to hit the campaign trail, and suggested she should stop refusing to answer any questions from local reporters.

"Part of being a member of Congress is being accessible," Davis said. "I don't always like the questions you ask me, but I've never shied away from answering them. These are the things that you do as a public official."

In campaign videos, Miller boasts her endorsement from Trump while Davis highlights her votes with progressive members of Congress against funding the U.S. military. 

"We need to have people in Washington that aren't going to vote with 'The Squad' to defund our military," Davis said. 

As the country re-examines the events leading up to January 6, including video showing a mob chanting "Hang Mike Pence," does Davis believe the former vice president did the right thing on that day?

"I was with Mike Pence and I voted to certify the election results," Davis responded. "I felt that that was my duty under the 12th Amendment of the Constitution."

"Mike Pence did the right thing by actually being there, being a part of the process that I was a part of," he said. "I was there. I was on the House floor on January 6th. Mike Pence is a good man."

In 2019, after narrowly winning re-election against a Democratic challenger, Davis toured the Old State Capitol in Springfield with Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and said he would gladly endorse her to run for president. Would he still support her in a primary race for president?

"Absolutely not," Davis replied.

What changed?

"Liz changed," he said. 

How?

"That's something that Liz and I can talk about privately," he said. 

Was her involvement in the January 6th select committee the basis of his disagreement with her?

"Not at all," he said. "As a matter of fact, there are a lot of factors that go into my disagreement with my colleague Ms. Cheney right now."

Miller's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The Illinois primary election is Tuesday, June 28.

Credit: AP
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., center, calls on a reporter during a news conference on the House Jan. 6 Committee, Thursday, June 9, 2022, with Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., left, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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