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WGLT News: How McLean County Shaped Rep. Adam Kinzinger

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NORMAL, IL, February 21, 2021 | comments

Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s support for impeachment of former President Donald Trump helped make Kinzinger a national political figure. He's also taking heat from many within his own party and even his own family.

Those who followed the early days of Kinzinger’s political career in McLean County aren’t surprised by his success or the courage that has put his career in jeopardy.

Erik Rankin is a fierce Democrat and former head of the McLean County Democratic party. Rankin became friends with Kinzinger in grade school. They lived on the same street in south Bloomington. They hung out a lot. Even then, Rankin said Kinzinger didn't lack confidence.

“Adam rode the bus and he told everybody he was going to run for Congress someday. That’s not even a made-up story. We all laughed at him,” Rankin recalled. “I guess we’re the ones who look like fools.”

Kinzinger studied political science at Illinois State University. One of his professors was Gary Klass. The now retired Klass said Kinzinger was a good student who enjoyed a good debate.

“I remember him as a little bit conservative, but I really liked having students on both sides,” Klass said.

It turned out to be good prep for later. Kinzinger said there were times he was the only conservative in the classroom.

“I think that taught me to be able to stand alone and to be able to defend your position without having to have people around to support you,” Kinzinger recalled.

Kinzinger still had a lot to learn. Rankin said Kinzinger struggled to focus in school.

“Much like typical 18-year-olds, middle-class White America, he was a bit of a knucklehead and just really couldn’t find a way to make the academic side work with his social side,” Rankin said.

Those distractions almost ended Kinzinger's college career early. Kinzinger said he refocused and graduated on time.

“I give ISU a lot of credit for that,” Kinzinger said. “I know they had no idea who I was. I was a number applying but they let me back in. They gave me a second chance.”

The entire article can be found on the WGLT News website here.
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