More than half of Kinzinger's GOP primary challengers believe Trump won the 2020 election
That's despite clear evidence to the contrary
Even though allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election haven't been substantiated, four conservatives challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger for his congressional seat insist Donald Trump actually won reelection.
All four maintain Democrat Joe Biden holds the Oval Office only through chicanery.
"I believe that is likely," said James Marter, an Oswego software consultant running for the 16th District post. "There were serious irregularities across the nation."
As have many Trump loyalists, Marter has taken his stolen election narrative to social media.
"I stand by President Trump, do you?" Marter, who sought the 14th District seat in 2020, tweeted on Aug. 12. "There was fraud and we are working on proving it!"
Fellow 16th District candidates Teresa Pfaff and Geno Young also ardently believe Biden wrongfully occupies the White House.
"It was stolen," said Young, a musician from Chicago. "And yes, President Trump was the winner."
Pfaff, a Machesney Park resident who works at a home improvement distribution center, went even further.
"I do believe President Trump is the legitimate president of the United States of America," she said.
Pfaff questioned how Trump led in some key states on election night but was behind the next day.
"Where did those votes come from?" she asked.
In fact, election officials and experts in Illinois and other states have said Biden pulled ahead as authorities counted millions of votes cast early and by mail, an option particularly popular in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Election results have shown most people who vote by mail back Democratic candidates, and that was the case last year.
In contrast, many Republican candidates, including Trump, grumbled about voting by mail and didn't promote it. Election watchers dubbed the resulting phenomena "the red mirage."
Like Marter, Young and Pfaff, GOP candidate Michael Rebresh of Minooka said Biden fraudulently stole the White House from Trump. But Rebresh acknowledges Biden was named president by "a legal and constitutional process."
"Though I may not agree with the decision, I do respect the Constitution and its laws," added Rebresh, a truck driver.
Kinzinger, a six-term Republican congressman from Channahon, adamantly disagrees with some of his challengers regarding the 2020 election.
He has criticized Trump and other Republicans for lying about the election results and for spreading conspiracy theories, becoming a pariah within the GOP for taking that and other anti-Trump stances.
"Those who wish to peddle in conspiracy theories and outright lies are not leaders," Kinzinger told the Daily Herald last month.
But neither call Trump the rightful president.
"Joe Biden is in the White House and I do not subscribe to crazy conspiracy theories that he will be replaced by some mysterious force," said Lombardi, an internet entrepreneur.
Yet, in July, Lombardi posted a tweet that questioned whether Biden is the proper president. When asked about it, he called the comment a joke.
"At the same time, I believe there are legitimate questions about the 2020 elections," Lombardi said.
The Lauf campaign released a statement expressing similar doubts.
"There are legitimate questions throughout our country that have been asked about our elections, and those questions should be answered," the statement read.
Lauf, an adviser for a children's nutrition company, ran for the 14th District seat in 2020. She was an adviser at the U.S. Commerce Department during the Trump administration and touts her connection to the former president on her Twitter account.
In all, seven Republicans have filed preliminary candidate paperwork with the Federal Election Commission in the 16th District race.
Marsha Williams of Wilmington is the lone Democratic hopeful so far. She noted no audits of the 2020 election have revealed fraud substantial enough to change the outcome.
"Government officials, judges and elected leaders, some of whom are Republicans, have publicly acknowledged that the election was legitimate," said Williams, an admissions adviser for a truck-driving school. "It's time to move forward with our country."
The 16th District includes all or parts of 14 Illinois counties. It stretches from the far Northwest suburbs and the Rockford area to downstate Ford County.
The district's boundaries certainly will change ahead of the primary election in June 2022. The 2020 census indicates Illinois' population decreased over the last decade, so the state will lose one of its 18 congressional seats.