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US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi balances Illinois' more progressive politics as he looks to future

John Byrne, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — Stepping to the microphone in an Elk Grove Village conference hall recently, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi — a burgeoning voice in Illinois’ congressional delegation — made an impassioned argument for fighting back against the extremism he sees in the Republicans running Congress.

While elected as a moderate, the four-term Democratic congressman from the northwest suburbs was headlining an event filled with progressive Democrats and party activists helping get signatures on nominating petitions to launch campaigns for upcoming elections.

But Krishnamoorthi quickly sought to bridge any perceived internal political party divide.

“We are united as Team Normal. There’s something called Team Normal, and we happen to be on Team Normal,” he told the crowd before turning his attention to the GOP. “But there’s also something called Team Extreme. And Team Extreme is on the rise.”

His appearance was just one of many he’s made at events across his district since being reelected in November. But it comes at a unique time in the state’s political evolution and, in particular, Krishnamoorthi’s career.

Krishnamoorthi, 50, of Schaumburg, took office in 2017 as a common-sense Democrat who was friendly with business. He has largely followed that track in the House while amassing the largest campaign piggy bank of any member of Congress in Illinois and, along the way, has generated chatter he might look to represent the state in the U.S. Senate.


But his advancement also comes as the political winds in Illinois have increasingly pushed the Democratic Party leftward, raising questions about whether he can balance that with his record and rhetoric and whether progressives — some of whom have run against Krishnamoorthi in primaries or criticized him for how he’s built-up his campaign war chest — will follow.

Krishnamoorthi said there’s nothing difficult or contradictory for him about working within the Democratic Party’s new reality.

“I think a lot of (progressives) are in the same place I am,” Krishnamoorthi said before rattling off a string of GOP-lead initiatives in Congress he said Democrats of all stripes would oppose.

“What do I mean by that? I think that, for instance, when the GOP added these riders to the National Defense Authorization Act and then the (Veterans Affairs) appropriation bill basically defunding programs to assist our service members who require travel for their reproductive health care, or banning Pride flags from the military, or banning Pride flags from being displayed anywhere at military installations, or banning books that might have something to do with teaching tolerance of LGBTQ people, I think those types of positions are so extreme that these Democrats will fight like hell against those types of restrictions, and so will I,” he said.


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