4 of 6 GOP candidates in 6th House race understate deadly Capitol riot

Upper from left, Niki Conforti, Rob Cruz, Gary Grasso and, lower from left, Scott Kaspar, Catherine A. O'Shea and Keith Pekau are the Republicans running in the 6th Congressional District primary.

Four of the six Republican candidates for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District seat understated the severity of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol in recent interviews or other statements.

Only two acknowledged that it was a violent, deadly riot.

The siege occurred as Congress was meeting to count and certify the electoral votes that would make President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump official.

It followed a rally on the National Mall at which Trump repeated the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He also urged people to go to the Capitol.

Hundreds did, with many eventually entering the building. In the hours that followed, five people died, many more were injured and extensive property damage occurred. Hundreds of people have since been criminally charged for their roles in the attack, and Trump was impeached for a second time for inciting the riot.

The Daily Herald has asked all congressional candidates in contested primary races about the Capitol breach.

In the 6th District Republican primary, general contractor and former school board member Rob Cruz of Oak Lawn called the onslaught “a poor decision by groups of average middle-class Americans who were frustrated.”

Another candidate, Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn, described the attack as “a protest by a large number of people that was mostly peaceful.”

Conforti, an energy consultant, said she opposes prosecuting people who entered the Capitol that day unless they hurt people or destroyed property.

A third GOP candidate, attorney and engineer Scott Kaspar of Orland Park, has insisted the siege wasn’t an attempted insurrection.

“None of us have personal knowledge as to what took place at the Capitol on that afternoon,” he said. “What was it? History will be the judge.”

Kaspar also deflated the day’s death toll. saying assault participant Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer while trying to climb through a barricaded interior door leading to the Speaker’s Lobby, was “the only person to be killed that day ... for what appears to be criminal trespassing.”

A fourth Republican, Catherine O’Shea of Oak Lawn, said “almost all of the people” protesting at the Capitol “had no intention of destruction of any kind” and simply wanted their voices heard.

O’Shea, a real estate broker, also questioned why security personnel at the Capitol moved gates and waved members of the mob forward.

“[There are] many unanswered questions still today,” she said.

The two other Republicans in the race – Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso and Oak Lawn Mayor Keith Pekau – expressed views on the Capitol attack that are dramatically different from the other contenders.

Grasso recognized it was a riot that caused “significant injuries and death, with deliberate destruction of sacred national ground.” The people who participated in the assault should be prosecuted, he said.

Similarly, Pekau said the people who stormed the Capitol acted violently, broke the law and “deserve to be prosecuted for their actions.”

As for whether the assault was an act of insurrection, Pekau said “every protest that turns into a riot against police or any government body could qualify as insurrection.”

Redrawn for the 2022 election, the 6th District includes much of the west and southwest suburbs in Cook and DuPage counties.

The winner of the June 28 GOP primary will face one of three Democratic candidates in the Nov. 8 general election: two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove; freshman U.S. Rep. Marie Newman of La Grange, who serves the 3rd District now; and Chicagoan Charles Hughes.

Both Casten and Newman voted to impeach Trump.