Woodstock native Catalina Lauf to challenge U.S. Rep. Kinzinger in GOP primary

Lauf says she will bring back true Republican values, calling Kinzinger ‘fake’ for recent votes, anti-Trump rhetoric

Woodstock native Catalina Lauf announced in a video Tuesday evening that she plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the Republican primary to represent Illinois’s 16th Congressional District after she said his criticism of former President Donald Trump brought division to the party.

In a three-minute rebuke of Kinzinger’s rhetoric and voting record, Lauf, a former member of the Trump administration who also ran for Congress last year in the 14th District, introduced herself as a small business owner and a grassroots politician sporting the slogan “America first.”

“I never thought I’d primary a fellow Republican, but is Adam Kinzinger really a Republican anymore?” Lauf said at the start of the video. “He isn’t, and we have the proof.”

District 16 covers much of the Rockford area and spans from DeKalb to Dixon in the north down across Princeton, Ottawa and Channahon and then down to Pontiac and Watseka in the south, with the southernmost point being Gibson City.

Kinzinger, R-Channahon, has been an outspoken critic of Trump and of the Republican Party since Trump’s election in 2016, which he said has “lost its way.”

“Republicans must say enough is enough,” Kinzinger said in a six-minute video released Jan. 31. “It’s time to unplug the outrage machine, reject the politics of personality and cast aside the conspiracy theories and the rage.”

He was one of only 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for a second time last month and was the first Congressional Republican to call upon former Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Northwest Herald reported.

Lauf said Kinzinger has divided the party in an already divisive time. She criticized him for crossing party lines on recent key votes like the vote to impeach, calling the impeachment trial “phony” and a “hoax.”

“Instead of focusing on what really matters, instead of being in our fight, [Kinzinger] betrayed his constituents for a life in the D.C. swamp,” Lauf said.

Lauf introduced her platform with a focus on setting term limits for members of Congress. Other key issues she said she wants to focus on included social media censorship, election integrity, freedom of speech, gun rights, illegal immigration and “keeping the economy going,” according to statements made in the video.

Lauf ran in the Republican primary to represent Illinois’ 14th Congressional District in 2020 but came in third with just over 20% of the vote, trailing behind Jim Oberweis (26%) and Sue Rezin (23%). Oberweis went on to lose the general election to Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood.

Two other Republicans have also said they will challenge Kinzinger in the 2022 primary: James Marter, an Oswego resident, who also ran against Kinzinger in 2018, and Jack Lombardi of Will County.

Marter also ran in the seven-way primary race for the 14th District In 2020, coming in fifth. He also sought the Republican nomination for U.S. senator in 2016 against Mark Kirk.

Ahead of the 2020 primary, Lauf told the Northwest Herald that she saw herself as an “outside candidate” that was going to bring a more grassroots approach to combatting what she called a “socialist agenda” rather than relying on career politicians.

She grew up in Woodstock, attending McHenry County College before transferring to Miami University in Ohio where she earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and mass communication, according to reporting by the Northwest Herald.

In the video released Tuesday, Lauf said she is proud to have been born into a family of “legal immigrants” who she said moved to Illinois to pursue “the American dream.”

After graduating from college, she began working in public affairs and marketing for Uber at a pivotal point in the company’s growth. The 2016 election inspired her to begin working in politics and she got her start on former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign before working her way up to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Coming from Woodstock, I didn’t have any connections or any sort of special network,” Lauf said in a 2019 interview with the Northwest Herald. “Everything I’ve built has been on my own.”

At the end of Lauf’s video, she said she hopes to usher in the return of what she sees as true Republican values: “free enterprise, God-given individual liberties and law and order.”

Kelli Duncan - Northwest Herald

Kelli Duncan is a reporter for the Northwest Herald covering county government as well as the communities of Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Marengo and Harvard. She has previously covered local politics, immigration and feature stories.